Martha Whitman was born Martha Jane Jamison on February 12, 1863 in Quawaka, IL. Though little is known of her childhood years, later in life Martha worked as a stenographer in Paris, Idaho and then as a court stenographer in Pocatello. She played a role in transcribing Idaho’s territorial records when it came into statehood. In 1890 Martha married Marcus F. Whitman, taking his last name.
Martha is remembered as a renowned participant in Idaho women’s suffrage during the late 1800s. She was chosen to serve on an advisory planning board to work with the Idaho Equal Suffrage Association (IESA) elected officers. She became responsible for suffrage clubs, and acted as an accredited delegate during a three-day suffrage convention located in Boise, Idaho. On the last day of the convention, new officers were appointed and Martha became acting President of the IESA.
The Women’s Suffrage Movement, which lasted decades, fought for women’s voting rights across the United States. For the state of Idaho, this issue resolved with the 1895 Joint Resolution No. 2 of the Third Session of the Idaho Legislature.
Her dedication, along with the work of other IESA members, contributed to Idaho’s passage of the state constitutional amendment which extended suffrage to women. Additionally, she was one of the first women to register to vote in Montpelier, Idaho. On March 8, 1897, the Idaho Governor of the time, Frank Steunenberg, nominated Martha to be the first woman Regent of the University of Idaho. She served in this role from 1897 to 1899. Whitman Hall, located within the Wallace Residence Center, was dedicated to Martha and serves as a reminder of her determination and success.
The 1895 Joint Resolution No. 2 of the Third Session of the Idaho Legislature can be viewed in person at the Women’s History Month display on the first floor of the library. The display was created by the UI Women’s Center and features female authors, photographs, and other historic and woman-centric materials.
1-Minute History Lesson: The Idaho Equal Suffrage Association. (2020). Idaho State Historical Society.
MG 5768, Collection on Woman Suffrage in Idaho, Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, Idaho.
PG 3_0212b, University of Idaho Portrait Collection, PG 003, Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, Idaho.
Scott, P. L. Biographical Sktch of Martha Jane Jamison Whitman. Part III: Mainstream Suffragists - National American Suffrage Association.
“Services Held For Martha Whitman”.(1939, March 2).Soda Springs Sun.
Whitman Hall (Folder 17). University Residences records, UG 075, Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, Idaho.