8 Women Loggers and Millers

Women Loggers and Millers

Marco Seiferle-Valencia

Title: Women working at the Clearwater Sawmill and Lumber factory sawing boards and loading cut boards from a conveyor belt, circa 1966.



Take a few minutes to just look at the image above.


What do you see in the image?

What questions do you have about what you see?

How does this connect to things you already know or are learning about?

Read the article that accompanied the image to learn more…


University of Idaho Special Collections


Context Given:

In 1926, the Clearwater Timber Company constructed the Clearwater Mill in Lewiston, ID. When it was built it was the largest white pine mill in the world. Due to the financial hardships of The Great Depression, in 1931, the Clearwater Timber Company merged with Potlatch Lumber Company and Rutledge Lumber Company becoming Potlatch Forests, Inc., today PotlatchDeltic. In these photographs, we see women working at the Clearwater Sawmill and Lumber factory sawing boards and loading cut boards from a conveyor belt, circa 1966.

This artifact appears of the Idaho Harvester Blog, which highlights items in the University of Idaho special collections that showcase unique elements of regional history. This image doesn’t have too much information alongside it, but there are many resources we can use to help expand and unpack the true context.

Some other words for expanded context…

Whose stories are included here?

Who is telling the story?

Expanded Context:

Students and casual readers of history might be familiar with classic iconography like that of Rosie the Riveter but might not realize the many contributions women have made to some of Idaho’s key industries. During both World War I and II, Idaho women stepped in to fill roles traditionally filled by men, including in agriculture, lumberjacking, and millwork. The University of Idaho special collections contain many interesting items relating to women’s contributions to heavy industry, including how they both performed so-called “woman’s work” to help keep busy industrial camps running, and also adapted to activities considered traditionally masculine in war times.

From the “Flunkies and Logerrettes: Women in the White Pine Forest”:

“Since last August, the feminine crew has been taking over many jobs on both the day and night shifts in the big lumber mill, and now they are so familiar with their daily tasks that their production often equals that of the men they replaced. In a few cases, where speed and co-ordination are more important than muscle, the women are hanging up new records in proficiency.”

J.J. O’Connell, manager of the Potlatch unit, tells the Daily Idahonian that “it was a matter of necessity when we started training women for work in the sawmill. Our housing facilities were all taken up, so we couldn’t import labor even if we wanted to, or could get the men. And we had to operate with two full shifts to meet Uncle Sam’s orders for lumber. The women seemed to take naturally to the work and they’ve done such a splendid job that we’re all proud of them.”


While many women who found jobs at the Potlatch mill and the surrounding logging camps during the war may have wanted to remain in those jobs, they found themselves replaced by returning men after both World War I and World War II. Even though they were forced out, these pioneering women had shown their community that they could do “men’s work,” which made a huge impact on local perspectives of gender equality. This was one small step forward that, taken with other small steps, helped eventually change perceptions of what women were capable of and secure equality for women in Potlatch.

The narratives surrounding the creation and building of Potlatch and the Potlatch Lumber Company are very saturated with the names and activities of men. Given the societal expectations and opportunities available to women during this time, that isn’t all that surprising. However, Potlatch wasn’t built by just men, and women have played an integral part in making the town what it was and is today. By looking back and recognizing the hand women played in the success of this former company town, we can also acknowledge their struggles to create a place for themselves in a world full of opportunities that before had only been open to men.”

Additional Resources to learn more:

Flunkies and Logerettes: Women in White Pine Forest

Idaho’s Women of Influence:



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Women Loggers and Millers Copyright © 2023 by Marco Seiferle-Valencia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.