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Boise city councilor, library advocate Marjorie Ewing dies at 98

Regence Blue Shield Idaho

“Men pee free, why can’t we?”

Marjorie Ewing lived in Idaho most of her 98 years, and in Boise for more than 70. Her name adorns a room at the Boise Library. She served on the board of the Boise Redevelopment Agency (now CCDC). She cheered on the Broncos for decades.

But like many politicians, Ewing knew how to boil her stance down to an easy, catchy slogan.

Ewing repeated hers often – in the media and at events around town.

“Men pee free, why can’t we?”

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For reelection to a city council seat, Ewing wanted to fix an issue at the Boise Airport. Men could use the bathroom for free. Women had to drop coins in a lock to use the facilities.

Ewing won that campaign – and several others. She served on the council for twelve years.

Marjorie “Marge” Ewing died last month at her home in Boise.

A long history in Boise

By chance, according to her obituary, she was paired with Bill Ewing during a dance class at Washington State University. The pair endured far after the class ended. They went on to a long marriage – 55 years. Bill died in 1997.

During her twelve years on council, in addition to getting the pay locks removed, she helped move the Boise River Greenbelt forward.

Left to Right: Patsy with son Chris, Gwen, Mary Jo, Carol, parents Marge and Bill, Karen, and Peggy. Photo courtesy City of Boise

“Early on, Marge thought it would be great if anyone, regardless of income, could go to the river for relaxation and peace of mind,” daughter Shirley Ewing wrote the City of Boise. “With public support for a greenbelt and grant money from the US government, the city began purchasing parcels of land along the river.”

She helped get Boise Urban Stages (now part of Valley Regional Transit) going. In 1977 Ewing spearheaded Boise’s efforts to clamp down on auto emissions.

A friend of the library(!)

Ewing’s largest legacy might include her advocacy for the Boise Public Library. She helped find the current main library site.

“Marge actually was the one who found this empty warehouse building that the library is in now and arranged for it, with the Friends of the Library,” Friends of the LIbrary’s Bonnie Longstreth told 6 On Your Side. “They arranged for the building to be purchased and remodeled. So she was a great part of the library all along.”

Her service to the library included a stint as president of Friends of the Library. She cheered on Boise’s effort to establish branch libraries across the city, and helped raise $100,000 from the Friends to boost the project. She even cut the ribbon on the Cole & Ustick branch. The Marjorie Ewing Idaho Room on the third floor of the main library building honors her contributions.

The Ewings had seven children – all of them daughters. Marjorie is survived by 15 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, and another great-great-grandchild.

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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