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History of the IWL

The Idaho Writer's League was founded in 1940. On January 21, 1987 Articles of Incorporation were filed in Boise, Idaho with the Department of State establishing the non-profit corporation known as the Idaho Writer's League, Inc.

The following history of the Idaho Writer's League was prepared on 12-01-73 by Faith Turner with help from Ethel Hopper and Virginia Hibbs.

If all the published work and all the enthusiasm of the Idaho Writer's League during the last score of years were laid end to end, they would approach the start...or so it would seem to the historian who carefully studies the records. 

As to how it all began, a group know as the Boise Writer's Club had flourished since December of 1922. It had been organized by a book shop owner named "Captain" E. F. Ayres (tall and lean with a mind and tongue extremely keen), and the personnel was largely professional. Among the members were Reginald Barker (the ten most prolific writer in the state), Eva Hunt Dockery of the Statesman staff, author and teacher Arthur Hays, Edward King, Jane Redfield Hoover and Faith Turner. Early in the 1930's, a writing group had also been organized in Twin Falls which numbered Anna Hansen Hayes, Jean Dinkelacker, Martine, Martina Yeiter, Dorine Goertzen and Olive May Cook, among others. About 1935, a representative of the League of Western Writers came to Boise from Portland and persuaded the Boise club to join. Along with Twin Falls, they did. 

In 1937, the Boise club staged a "WRITERS ROUND UP," western style, which attracted so many people that a second conference, "THE POTLATCH," was held the following year. Olive May Cook, President of the Idaho branch of the League, and Martina Yeiter, the Twin Falls prexy, were special guests. Again in 1939, Boise held a well-attended conference, "THE GYPSY TRAIL." All this generated so much interest in writing in Idaho that enthusiasm for the League of Western Writers, headquartered in California, seemed to wane. It was too far for any representative attendance at conferences and contacts were unsatisfactory. So, after much deliberation, it was voted to withdraw and form an Idaho League of our own. 

Thus, the IDAHO WRITERS LEAGUE was born. Faith Turner was elected first President. She called a meeting at her home to draft a constitution and to plan statewide contests for unpublished writing. In the ensuing years, By-Laws and adjustments were worked out. The fundamentals formed during that first meeting, however, remained, and the contests became a tradition. That same year, 1940 the new IDAHO WRITERS LEAGUE held a conference in Boise with "LIGHT ON THE MOUNTAINS" as its theme. Talbot Jennings came up from Hollywood to attend, Frank Robertson, President of the Utah League (which had also withdrawn from the League of Western Writers to form their own group) was there and Margarette Ball Dickson, poet laureate from Minnesota. By this time, another Chapter was added to the League - Burley. 

After that, the IDAHO WRITERS LEAGUE grew like topsy with Chapters organized all over the state. In 1960, there were nine Chapters; and late in 1961 a new one, Minacassia, had applied for membership, too. 

The bulletin, or newsletter, was first named the "LEAGAZETTE" in April of 1944 by the third state president, Gladys Swank, who was instrumental in organizing the northern Chapters. 

Dorine Goertzen, who was active in the "POETS OF THE PACIFIC," initiated the move for "Poetry Day" in Idaho. She was also responsible for having the state newsletters from 1941 through 1949 permanently bound - a practice which should be adopted as a continuing project. 

In 1946, a League project was completed - publication of a book of contest poems entitled, "NETTED GEMS OF VERSE," with a forward by state president, Dorothy Robinson. Elinor Allen was business manager, and the books were a sell-out. The proceeds were put in a special League fund designated for publishing. Although many League individuals and Chapters have had books published, this was the one and only such League project. 

Governor Robins appointed a League member, Sudie Stuart Hager, as Poet Laureate of Idaho in early 1949, succeeding Irene Welch Grissom who had moved from the state. 

During the war years, the annual statewide writing contests were open to service men. The Grace Jordan Short Story Contest was initiated in the mid '50's and at first was open only to League members. Nora Ann Harriman was the first winner. 

Honorary members of the Idaho Writer's League have been: Vardis Fisher (Idaho's most famous and prolific author), Governor Bottolfsen, Henry Dworshak and Dr. John Nydegger.

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