The Women Who Built Omaha


The Women Who Built Omaha

A Bold and Remarkable History

Eileen Wirth

234 pages
19 photographs, 1 illustration, index


May 2022


$22.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2022


$22.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2022


$22.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

2023 Nebraska Book Award

During the 1930s the Federal Writers’ Project described Omaha as a “man’s town,” and histories of the city have all but ignored women. However, women have played major roles in education, health, culture, social services, and other fields since the city’s founding in 1854. In The Women Who Built Omaha Eileen Wirth tells the stories of groundbreaking women who built Omaha, including Susette “Bright Eyes” LaFlesche, who translated at the trial of Chief Standing Bear; Mildred Brown, an African American newspaper publisher; Sarah Joslyn, who personally paid for Joslyn Art Museum; Mrs. B of Nebraska Furniture Mart; and the Sisters of Mercy, who started Omaha’s Catholic schools. Omaha women have been champion athletes and suffragists as well as madams and bootleggers. They transformed the city’s parks, co-founded Creighton University, helped run Boys Town, and so much more, in ways that continue today.

Author Bio

Eileen Wirth is a professor emeritus of journalism at Creighton University and a senior writer for Legacy Preservation in Omaha. She is the author or coauthor of several books, including From Society Page to Front Page: Nebraska Women in Journalism (Nebraska, 2013), Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, and A History Lover’s Guide to Omaha.


"Anyone who has an interest in Omaha history, Nebraska history, and/or women's history would be wise to read Wirth's book. . . . Wirth's book pays homage to women who struggled to improve their lives and the lives of others."—Sheryl Schmeckpeper, Nebraska History

"Women today, wearied by continued setbacks and obstacles to gender equality but yet retaining hope for the progress of future generations, will certainly find inspiration in the bold women who built Omaha."—Mallory Lutz, Kansas History

"This book is a great read for anyone who has ever spent time in Omaha and/or anyone who wants to know more about Omaha's history—or in this case, her—story."—Jean A. Lukesh, RoundUp Magazine

“Eileen Wirth offers Omahans a window into their history, a fuller accounting of the contributions of remarkable women who built this city. . . . Wirth’s extensive research and reporter’s style make this history book come alive with compelling characters and rich descriptions.”—Erin Grace, former columnist for the Omaha World-Herald

“An account of feminine accomplishment that goes well beyond the usual portraits of a few well-known society women who made their mark in the shadow of their even better-known husbands. . . . This book shares a wealth of interesting and little-known anecdotes about those women who paved the way to the Omaha of today.”—Martha Grenzeback, genealogy librarian of the Omaha Public Library

“In her no-nonsense, leave-the-fluff-in-the-hall style, Eileen Wirth has presented us with a well-researched look at Omaha women. . . . If you are a native, new to Omaha and curious, or just looking for some kind of history, The Women Who Built Omaha is for you.”—Mary Maxwell, Omaha humorist

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Introduction: Women in Early Omaha

1. Education

2. Founding Creighton University and Duchesne

3. Native American Women

Interlude 1: The “New Women” of the Gilded Age

4. Votes for Omaha Women

5. Prostitution in Wide-Open Omaha 

6. Health Care

7. Human Services

8. Culture and the Arts

Interlude 2: From World War I to World War II

9. Business

10. Restaurants and Bakeries

11. Sports

Interlude 3: Postwar to the Women’s Movement

12. Law

13. Government

14. Civil Rights

15. After the Women’s Movement 






2023 Nebraska Book Award

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