Idaho's Hall of Fame, Inc.
Betty Penson Ward

Betty Penson Ward was an early voice for the women’s movement in Idaho and contributor to the Idaho Statesman for more than fifty years, including editor of the Idaho Statesman’s feature section for thirty seven years.When she passed away on September 4, 2002 the headline of the Idaho Statesman summed up her career by saying, “Writer personified Idaho Statesman for half a century.”

Betty joined the Statesman as a cub reporter in 1927, retired in 1975 and continued to write a column for another two decades.In the pre-television era, she became a newspaper “star”, traveling the world to interview the rich and famous.She dined with Emperor Haile Selassie in his marble palace in Ethiopia, met Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart for Hollywood lunches, corresponded with first ladies and swapped shoes with Eva Peron in Argentina.

Tim Woodward, an Idaho Statesman columnist, recounts her nickname, never spoken to her face, as the Queen Bee.Taken from her B. Penson column byline, a bee, a quill pen, and a sun logo, it was a waggish tribute to her stature and abilities.Co-workers knew her as an innovative editor, a meticulous grammarian, and a gifted wordsmith.

She was born Betty Butler in Boise's old St. Alphonsus Hospital. She taught herself to read and entered the first grade at St. Theresa's Academy at five.In 1934, armed with typing, shorthand and a diploma from Boise High School, she started working as a proofreader for the Boise Capital News at the weekly wage of $9.40.By the end of the first week, she was church editor, whether editor and society editor and only 19 years of age.Her daughter Mali Krivor stated “she used to say that she go the job because she knew shorthand and could read upside down.”

At the age of 22 Betty left the Capital News to become a rookie police reporter for The Statesman.On her first day, some officers locked her in a cell and tied her gloves in knots.The incident fueled a lifelong interest in women's rights.In a 1994 interview, Tim Woodward tells, “she recalled that as typifying the standard attitude toward women in business then.We never got close to the glass ceiling.We never knew it was there.” she was writing about the women's movement almost before it began.In 1991, she wrote a book entitled “Idaho Women in History.”A book that Betty used to look deeply into people's lives, especially women's, which made a difference in how people in Idaho looked at women.Her writing in The Statesman told readers about the value of women, what they added to the family, the community, the states and the world.

Betty Penson Ward became the first woman president of the Idaho Press Club and brought the “Women's Section,” later known as “People” and “Daybreak,” national attention.She received many accolades for her writing and was honored in 1971 by the National Federation of Press Women as the recipient of its national sweepstakes award.Betty became The Statesman's travel editor in 1955 and lived up to the title.She interviewed royalty in Morocco and rebel leaders in the Congo, covered Christian Dior openings in Paris and the May Day parade in Moscow.She sailed the South Seas and Norwegian fjords, explored the Arctic, and slept in a Maori hut.

Some of her stories closer to home influenced Boise's growth.When a judge wanted to make a rose garden out of what the city wanted to make the parking lot, but he supported his idea with repeated columns.The result was Capitol Park.Her writing also influenced plans for the Morrison Center, Music Week, the public library, and local women's organizations.

Betty Penson Ward had three husbands, Clyde Matthews, George Penson, and Idaho 5th District Judge Theron Ward.Penson and Ward preceded her in death.Her survivors include a son, Kelly Matthews of Boise, her daughter, Mali Krivor of Coeur d’Alene, and numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, stepchildren and cousins.

by Dee Klenck