TERESA GRAHAM: Grand Dame of North Idaho

Teresa Graham, circa 1890.
Courtesy photo

By Robert Singletary
| July 10, 2020 1:00 AM

Teresa Graham was one of the most prominent and influential women in North Idaho during the first half of the 20th Century.

She came to Coeur d’Alene in 1890 at the age of 21 from London, Ontario.

In 1896, she married James W. Graham, a prominent attorney and community leader. He had a variety of interests in the community, including politics. He was involved in the formation of Coeur d’Alene’s first water and light company. In 1898, he organized the Idaho Volunteers and served with them in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. He returned to his law practice and business interests in 1899. During the war he was exposed to a tropical disease, which he struggled with until his death on Aug. 15, 1906.

Teresa Graham followed her husband’s interests in business and politics. She became a very successful businesswoman and for several years was one of the largest property owners in Coeur d’Alene.

In 1910, she purchased a large home on East Lakeshore Drive, which she called Villa Glendalough. Teresa hosted many famous dignitaries at her home, including William Gibbs McAdoo when he was Secretary of Treasury and James J. Farley when he was the Postmaster General.

Her involvement in politics and civic affairs was extensive. In 1916, she was a delegate at the National Democratic Convention in St. Louis. She was the first woman to attend a major political convention as an official delegate. Teresa served as Idaho’s committeewoman for 20 years, attending six national conventions.

She was a friend of President Woodrow Wilson and was a member of the committee that nominated him for a second term as president. Mrs. Graham served as state chairwoman of the women’s division of the Liberty Loan Drive and was active in the Victory Loan Drive during and following World War I. She also had the distinction of being the only woman member of the Minimum Wage Commission and the Industrial Welfare Committee of Idaho.

Teresa Graham was very active in church affairs. She attended five national conventions of the National Council of Catholic Women. During one of her trips abroad, she had an audience with the Pope.

Theresa was also involved in many local activities. She helped organize the first Woman’s Club in Coeur d’Alene and was instrumental in creating the Coeur d’Alene Public Library.

Teresa Graham lived in her beautiful home on the north shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene until her death on Nov. 12, 1951.

Mrs. Graham is one of the many women of North Idaho who is included in the current exhibit at the Museum of North Idaho, called “Rightfully Hers … Finding Equality in a Man’s World.”

The Museum is also featuring regional historian Robert Singletary, who is conducting living history walking tours of Fort Sherman and downtown Coeur d’Alene during the summer months. Call 208-664-3448 or 208-755-1308 for information.