Pioneers at the Edge of Their Universe: Japanese Railroad Workers in Idaho and the Intermountain West
Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)
Type of Culminating Activity
Master of Arts in History
Jill K. Gill, Ph.D.
John Bieter, Ph.D.
Shelton Woods, Ph.D.
Although many scholars are aware of the history of Japanese Americans and their presence in the West Coast states, including their internment during World War II, few are familiar with the experiences of Japanese immigrants in Idaho and the surrounding Intermountain States. Little is written of the first Japanese who came to Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming at the end of the nineteenth century, or of the role of railroads in their moving inland. Because of this, scholars assume a similar experience of the Japanese in the Intermountain West with those who stayed on the West Coast. This thesis argues railroads were instrumental in bringing the majority of the Japanese immigrants to Idaho and the Intermountain West. Because of the nature of railroad work, Issei were scattered across the states with little ability to create ethnic communities. They integrated into the local communities more fully than those living in the ethnic enclaves in California, Oregon, and Washington. Their pioneering experiences gave Issei the opportunity to assert the values they brought as invisible baggage in their new communities because their values often paralleled American pioneering principles. As a result of their relative isolation, Japanese immigrants depended on their core values to help them succeed and persevere in the Intermountain West.
Vance, Julie Ann, "Pioneers at the Edge of Their Universe: Japanese Railroad Workers in Idaho and the Intermountain West" (2019). Boise State University Theses and Dissertations. 1582.