Aileen H. Clyde 20th Century Women's Legacy Archive: Western History Association oral history project, ACCN 0814

Western History Association Oral History Project, ACCN 0814

The Western History Association oral history project is part of the Everett L. Cooley oral history collection.  

Emeritus professor of history at Utah State University, Anne Butler, remembers her academic career with emphasis on her membership in the Western Historical Association and her time as editor of the WHA´s organ the Western Historical Quarterly. Raised in Massachusetts, Dr. Butler discovered her love of the West and Western history in childhood, and, as a single mother of two in the 1960s, embarked on a college career that started at Towson State University and led her to a PhD at the University of Maryland. She worked closely with Walter Rundell and Richard Farrell at Maryland, and throughout the interview discusses Rundell´s scholarship, his manner with students, and his work in the WHA. Dr. Rundell was responsible for Dr. Butler´s own entry into the WHA, and she gave her first paper at the San Diego conference in 1979. She replaced Chaz Peterson at Utah State University in 1988 with Clyde Milnerôs encouragement, and indeed credits him with making her academic experience and her entire time in Logan until his departure wonderful. Dr. Butler retired from USU to give David Lewis room to grow as editor, but also because Dr. Milner had already left. Her work for the WHQ spanned fourteen years, and she professionalized the establishment as well as gearing the journal up for online access and publication. She remembers the WHQ being the only small journal to join History Co-op at first, alongside the bigger names. Dr. Butler also made a concerted effort at the WHQ to reach out to Hispanic and women scholars. She mentions the journal´s emphasis on cutting-edge research and notes the rise of graduate students´ work in the publication. She mentions a number of fine graduate students the WHQ sponsored with fellowships, and discusses the process. In 2012 Dr. Butler received the WHA´s Award of Merit.

​​​​​​​Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Illinois and first woman president of the Western History Association, Mary Lee Spence, discusses her role in the WHA and shares her thoughts on the organization. A physics major at the University of Texas, she soon switched to history and later became interested in Western history, particularly influenced by her advisor at the University of Minnesota, Ernest Osgood. She joined the WHA in 1962 with her husband Clark C. Spence, but did not attend for perhaps ten years due to her children. She mentions a number of prominent historians involved in the WHA early on, including Martin Ridge, Vernon Carstenson, and Francis Paul Prucha. Having served several leadership roles in the WHA, Dr. Spence became president in 1981. She remembers the organization early on being almost entirely white, and notes its growing diversity over the decades. She also mentions that non-white professional historians’ numbers have increased and that they are more welcome at the WHA now than in the past. Dr. Spence also discusses the role of women in the organization and notes their increasing roles over the years. She feels the WHA’s mission is the same as it was in the early years—to explore the history of all facets of the West.

Marriott Library Eccles Library Quinney Law Library