Many women of the American West engaged in unpaid servitude and sacrifice — but for some, the West afforded a light of freedom and equality. Taking the Reins on Idaho Experience (premiering May 24 at 8:30 PM) offers two such examples.
Katherine Caroline Wilkins was born in 1857 in the Oregon Territory, the daughter of fortune-seeking pioneers. On one of the Wilkins’ departures, neighbors gave the toddler two 20-dollar gold coins. Years later, Katherine would regale to reporters how she parlayed that 40 dollars into her fortune. She would become one of the most successful horse sellers in the United States, the undisputed boss of Idaho’s famed Diamond Ranch. The world would come to know her as the Horse Queen of Idaho. Friends and family simply called her Kittie.
The documentary also features a contemporary of Kittie Wilkins, May Arkwright Hutton. Born poor in Ohio and abandoned by her parents, Hutton would become one of the richest women in the American West. Hutton ran a boarding house in the Wallace area while also investing in mines. One of those mines, the Hercules, would turn out to be on top of a huge silver vein. Hutton and her husband would use their newfound wealth to help many people and causes, including promoting suffrage in neighboring Washington State. Hutton, who had campaigned for suffrage in Idaho, would also run for the Idaho Legislature.