In 1982, a group of women’s historians met during a conference sponsored by the Institute of the American West titled “Inventing the West.” At this event, Lillian Schlissel coordinated a day focused on western women’s lives and experiences. It was during this gathering that attendees planned to hold a conference on western women the following year.
The first “Women’s West Conference” took place in 1983 in Sun Valley, Idaho. It was “the first national meeting devoted to western women’s history” (Armitage & Jameson, 3). There, a group of women founded the Coalition for Western Women’s History and established a Steering Committee which worked to build a community of women and men who produced scholarship on women in the field of western history. The founders drafted by-laws and applied for non-profit (501(c)3) status. They also worked to organize future events and meetings. This conference also produced a volume of scholarship: The Women’s West, edited by Susan Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson, was published in 1987 by the University of Oklahoma Press. In 1988 it received the Susan Koppelman Award for Best Edited Volume in Feminist Studies from the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association.
The CWWH sponsored three other conferences: the second annual conference took place in 1984 in Park City, Utah. It expanded its sponsorship and awareness widely with a network supported by the Institute for the American West, Utah Women’s History Association, Montana Women’s History Project, Utah Endowment for the Humanities, Northwest Women’s History Project, Southwest Institute for Research on Women, University of Utah, and the CWWH. The third (“The Women’s West: Race, Class, and Culture”) was held in 1987 in San Francisco, California. The fourth meeting brought attendees together in 1990 in Lincoln, Nebraska (“Suspect Terrain: Surveying the Women’s West”). The fifth conference reconnected people in Pullman, Washington, in 2000 (“Gender, Race, Class, and Region in the North American West”).