Idaho: The only state with a seal designed by a woman. Meet Emma Edwards Greene


In our Inside Idaho series, we like to take a look at the pioneers who paved the way for future Idahoans.

One of those: Emma Edwards-Greene who made history as the first and only woman to design a state’s great seal.

[Inside Idaho: The ‘Niagara of the West’ is just a day trip away]

Idaho became a state on July 3, 1890. That same summer, 18-year-old Edwards traveled from New York to visit her family in Boise. While she originally intended for a short visit to the small Idaho town, she decided to make Boise her life-long home.

“She fell in love with the charming city and its people and opened art classes where the young pioneers of the community learned to paint,” the Idaho Secretary of State’s office notes.

Winning the contest

Emma Edwards-Greene. Photo via the Idaho Secretary of State’s office.

After gaining recognition through her art classes, Edwards was invited to enter a contest to design the state seal. The selected artist would be granted a $100 prize. Keep in mind, that was a lot of money in 1890.

Artists from around the country submitted their work. In a unanimous vote, an appointed committee selected the work from young Emma Edwards.

[Take our Idaho history quiz]

“The question of Woman Suffrage was being agitated somewhat, and as leading men and politicians agreed that Idaho would eventually give women the right to vote,” Edwards wrote of her design.

On March 5, 1891, Governor Norman B. Willey gave Edwards the honorarium.

To date, she is the first and only woman to design a state seal.

Next week in our Inside Idaho series: The state’s motto is on the state’s seal. But what does it mean?

Anna Daly - BoiseDev Reporter
Anna Daly is a reporter for BoiseDev. She's an Emmy-winning journalist, and a professor at the College of Western Idaho. Contact her at

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