Museum of North Idaho’s annual meeting to feature Silver Valley author

| March 8, 2020 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — The Museum of North Idaho’s annual meeting in April will feature guest speaker Heather Branstetter, author of “Selling Sex in the Silver Valley: A Business of Doing Pleasure.”

A Silver Valley native, Branstetter graduated summa cum laude from the University of Idaho before going on to earn a doctorate in rhetoric and cultural studies from the University of North Carolina in 2012.

Her academic research article discussing the more notorious aspects of her hometown, Wallace, won the Charles Kneupper Award for “the most significant contribution to scholarship in rhetoric” in 2017. Branstetter has been a member of Wallace’s City Council since 2016, serves on the board of the Barnard-Stockbridge Museum as programming director and is the executive director of the Historic Wallace Preservation Society.

Her book, “Selling Sex in the Silver Valley: A Business of Doing Pleasure,” highlights old Wallace, which was once the largest silver producer in the world. Wallace became notorious for labor uprisings, hard drinking, gambling and prostitution.

As late as 1991, illegal brothels openly flourished because locals believed that sex work prevented rape and bolstered the economy, so long as it was regulated and confined to a particular area of town. The madams enjoyed unprecedented status as influential businesswomen, community leaders and philanthropists, while elsewhere a growing aversion to the sex trade drove red-light districts underground. Branstetter’s research features previously unpublished archival materials and oral histories as she relates the intimate details of this unlikely story.

Branstetter’s presentation aligns with the museum’s featured exhibit “Rightfully Hers: Finding Equality in a Man’s World.” This year marks the centennial of suffrage, and though women in Idaho have had the right to vote since 1896, there are stories of women trying to garner equality in other arenas of North Idaho. This 2020 exhibit is in conjunction with the Idaho Women 100 Celebration.

The Museum of North Idaho’s annual meeting is open to the public. It will be held April 21 in the Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn, 506 W. Appleway Ave., from 5-8 p.m.

Individual tickets are $50 and sponsorship tables are $500. Purchase tickets through Eventbrite: