Women at the Center of Montana Families



Women have long been at the center of Montana families. Lydia Broast sits as proudly as any queen on her throne with her children lined up behind her in this photograph taken in eastern Montana in 1923.


About the photographer: Evelyn Cameron 

From the Visit Terry Montana Website:  Historic photographer Evelyn J. Cameron gave up a life of wealth and privilege in England when she moved with her husband, British ornithologist Ewen Cameron, to Montana near the turn of the century.  Her diaries record daily life in Prairie County from 1893 until her death in 1928.  Transcriptions of these diaries can be found at the Prairie County Museum and are open to the public for genealogy and research purposes.  The stunning images she captured of pioneers forging a living on the frontier are worthy examples of the spirit that can still be found in eastern Montana’s small towns, where the quality of life is high though populations are still relatively low.  

Evelyn Cameron personified the strength and perseverance of Montana women.  She thoroughly enjoyed the area’s rugged beauty and the freedom life on the prairie afforded her.  She preferred not having servants and reveled in doing her own housework, gardening, and ranch tending.  When Ewen and Evelyn’s attempt to raise polo ponies failed miserably, Evelyn took to photography as a way to earn a living.  “From her photographs, it is obvious that she admired the ingenuity and propensity for hard work that characterized the Montana pioneer” (Lucey, xvi).  With her camera by her side, Evelyn was called upon to document everything from weddings to immigrant sheep shearing crews to technological milestones.  A witness to the end of the open range and the height of the railroad, Evelyn Cameron’s view of the prairie is one you can’t miss. 

According the PBS Montana documentary “Evelyn Cameron: Pictures From A Worthy Life“, to take her pictures, Evelyn often rode horseback for fifty miles or more and frequently climbed precipitous mountains on foot with her heavy camera equipment strapped to her back. Evelyn Cameron loved Montana and flourished here – taking on the hard work of running a ranch, keeping a market garden and taking photographs of the wildlife and immigrants alike. Her photography turned into a business which rescued the family finances and allowed Evelyn and her husband to remain on the Eve Ranch near Terry, Montana.


Montana Historical Society Photo Archives PAC 90-87. NB041E

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