Forgotten Stories of Clark County Women – The Voices Seldom Heard

Part 1 — Stories of 19th Century Women Who Influenced Clark County

Welcome to the podcast series of the Friends of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. This series gives voice to the "Forgotten Stories of Clark County Women – The Voices Seldom Heard." In the 19th century the population of Clark County, WA, increased dramatically from the size of the early communities established by the Hudson's Bay Company to burgeoning towns and farms settled by Americans. Families with women and children crossed thousands of miles in wagon trains beginning in the 1840's. Hundreds of military wives voyaged down the Atlantic coast and crossed the Isthmus of Panama to waiting steamships on the Pacific that carried them to Vancouver. Once here, they met Native American and Hawaiian women who were married to British and Canadian fur traders affiliated with the Hudson's Bay Company posts. Roman Catholic nuns made the long journey west from Montreal to found schools and hospitals throughout the Northwest. American Protestant missionaries like Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding came to the region as early as 1836, crossing the Great Plains in wagons and journeying as far as Fort Vancouver.

The stories take a closer look at women in Clark County. In the 1860 census – limited mainly to white US citizens and the first in the nation to include Washington Territory, only 11,000 people lived in the entire Territory. Of those, more than a quarter settled in Clark County. In this most densely populated county, 1,625 were male and only 742 were female. We will hear from some of the women living in the county in 1860 and later, too. Government restrictions limited American Indians from owning land, and only 16 were taxed landowners counted into the census – 4 males and 12 females. Our first podcast is the story of a woman counted among those twelve registered as Native Americans.

All our stories are adapted from primary sources such as diaries, journals, letters or interviews. It is interesting to think that the 19th century women featured in this first series may have all met and known one another. The stories are a glimpse into their personal lives and thoughts contemporary to the times and the ever-changing environments around them.


"Voices Seldom Heard" was funded in large part by the Clark County Historical Promotion Grant Program. It is researched and hosted by Friends of Fort Vancouver National Historical Site, a non-profit organization whose mission is to broaden public awareness, lend support, explore, research and help interpret the heritage of this remarkably rich historic site. 

Narrators for this series include Lillian Pitt. 

Research by Lily Hart, under direction of Mary Rose, Executive Director, with technical direction from Mark Dodd. 


A Glimpse Ahead

We'll meet fascinating women who campaigned for the women's right to vote and lived on Officers' Row. They managed households with Chinese and Russian servants, transcribed reports in calligraphy for their husbands, and brought a worldly view to the army posts and settlers' villages in which they lived.  

Founder of Washougal

Betsy White Wing Ough was raised in the Native American village near Parker's Landing on the Columbia River. She and her British husband greeted and fed hundreds of American emigrants as they completed the last leg of the Oregon Trail into Clark County. 

She likely met Sister Joseph, an accomplished carpenter and architect, who arrived at Vancouver in 1856 with a small group of Roman Catholic nuns from Montreal. Together, the Sisters of Charity of Providence raised funds and built schools and hospitals throughout the Pacific Northwest.


Architect, Teacher, and Roman Catholic Nun

Betsy White Wing Ough likely met Sister Joseph, an accomplished carpenter and architect, who arrived at Vancouver in 1856 with a small group of Roman Catholic nuns from Montreal. Together, the Sisters of Charity of Providence raised funds and built schools and hospitals throughout the Pacific Northwest.


Army wife, mother, pioneer

In 1879, Nanny Moale Wood and with her new husband Lieutenant C.E.S. Wood honeymooned across the country by transcontinental rail and caught steamboats headed north and up the river to their home at Vancouver Barracks. They lived for a short time with General and Mrs. O.O. Howard until their new house was finished on Officers' Row.


The Paiute native woman, Sarah Winnemucca, taught school on the Army's parade grounds to the children of Bannock people incarcerated at Vancouver Barracks after the war in 1879. She helped negotiate peace as an envoy and interpreter for the US Army. Later, she lectured throughout the nation for Indian rights. 

Betsy White Wing Ough
Sweetheart Hangar Dance, February 10, 2018

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