In 1922, Harriette Cushman was hired by the Extension Service at Montana State College to be Montana’s first poultry specialist. As one of the few women pursuing a career as a poultry scientist, she recognized that poultry was a mainstay of home economics and an essential source of income for women. She inspired many new poultry growers in Montana and introduced poultry production into Montana’s 4-H clubs, teaching youngsters how to raise exceptional flocks, grade eggs and judge poultry. In 1942, Cushman logged over 10,000 miles working with Montana poultry producers and helping form the nation’s first egg and poultry cooperatives. Her work with the Northwest Turkey Federation secured a nationwide market for Montana premium quality Norbest turkeys, making the Montana turkey industry the most profitable in the nation during the Depression. Cushman enjoyed working on Montana Indian reservations, where poverty and lack of economic opportunity were most persistent. Poultry raising made tangible, positive impacts. Cushman was grateful when the Blackfeet made her an honorary tribal member, and she championed the Indian Center at Montana State College. Cushman advocated for libraries, museums and the arts, was a lifelong supporter of 4-H and a prolific writer. 

During a time when there were very few women pursuing a career in agriculture, Harriette Cushman generated a thriving poultry industry. Her commitment and contributions to Montana agriculture and the land-grant mission cannot be understated and for too long have gone without the credit she deserves.

Harriette Cushman

MSU Historic Photo Collection: parc-001264