Scholar-librarian Philip A. Homan, M.A., M.L.S., is a catalog librarian and an associate professor at Idaho State University’s Eli M. Oboler Library in Pocatello. Descended from early settlers in Owyhee and Twin Falls counties and a fourth-generation Idahoan, Phil received the Master of Library Science degree from St. John’s University in New York City in 2002 and then returned to Idaho, after fifteen years in The Bronx, where he was a tour guide for The Bronx County Historical Society. He is a member of the Idaho Library Association Executive Board, a frequent presenter at library conferences, and a contributor to Idaho Magazine. Phil received an IHC Research Fellowship and is writing the first biography of Kittie Wilkins, the Horse Queen of Idaho. His research has been supported also by grants from Nevada Humanities and from Colorado Humanities.
Kittie Wilkins, the Horse Queen of Idaho, was a woman of superlatives. The boss of the Wilkins Horse Company in the Bruneau Valley of Owyhee County and owner of 10,000 range-bred horses, all branded with her famous Diamond brand—the largest herd owned by one family in the West—the Queen of Diamonds was the only woman at the turn of the twentieth century whose sole occupation was as a horse dealer. She sold horses by the carloads in the livestock markets of the United States, even making the largest horse sale ever in the West. Newspapers along the Union Pacific announced her arrival in the stockyards with headlines like “Is Consistent Womanhood,” “She Is a New Type,” and “The Only One of Her Kind,” and papers throughout America spread the word about the Idaho girl who was making a fortune selling horses. A “thoroughly womanly woman,” however, she was a different type of the “new woman”—who rode the range, indeed, but on sidesaddle, not astride, hating bicycles as much because they were unladylike as for their harm to the horse market. She had the Victorian charm, education, prejudices, style, and tastes of a late-nineteenth-century wealthy, urban woman of the East—but preferred life as a single woman on a ranch in Idaho, which she called “the most independent life on earth.” Wilkins—who made Idaho a household word across America—was the most famous Western woman of her generation, becoming for Americans the very model of the West.