Montanans at Work
Beginning with its First Peoples, residents of Montana lived off the land. Europeans’ arrival in the eighteenth century changed how Montanans worked, but they still relied primarily on the state’s natural resources to provide their livelihoods. By the 1870s, cattle grazed the plains once reserved for game and Indian ponies. Farmers soon followed, plowing up the grasses. Montana’s mineral wealth brought extractive industries, along with an immigrant population searching for opportunity. Businessmen established commercial enterprises to meet a growing population’s needs while women generally worked at home caring for their families or labored in the few occupations open to them. Throughout the twentieth century advancing technology transformed work at home and in the office, yet today agriculture remains Montana’s primary industry. Prosperity was sometimes elusive: Montana’s economy has been defined by booms and busts, and the work itself has often been difficult. Nevertheless, Montanans continue to make a living through ingenuity and resourcefulness.