Idaho Talks: Polly Bemis: The Life and Times of a Chinese American Pioneer with Priscilla Wegars

July 13, 2023 @ 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Central Idaho Historical Museum
1001 State Street
McCall ID 83638
Krista Rauch
(208) 447-7202

McCall Arts and Humanities Council will be hosting a series of discussions in the study and application of our humanity in relation to our environment. These talks will be held at the Central Idaho Historical Museum’s Carpenter Shop. Built in 1937 and recently restored it is the perfect backdrop to reflect on preservation, restoration, heritage and what it means to leave a legacy. Guest speakers will give a presentation in their field of expertise and then will open up to guests for questions and comments.

Polly Bemis, Idaho’s most famous Chinese woman, lived here for over 60 years. Although owned at first by a Warren, Idaho, Chinese businessman, she later married Charlie Bemis, and the couple moved to a remote area along the Salmon River. After two years in Warren after Charlie’s death in 1922, Polly Bemis returned to the Salmon River and remained there until just before her death in 1933. Since that time, numerous articles, two books, and a movie have presented fictionalized versions of her life, often stating that she was a prostitute or that Charlie Bemis “won her in a poker game.” Primary sources, combined with Chinese customs at the time, provide evidence showing that both statements are myths. Priscilla Wagers will present a PowerPoint lecture also incorporates photographs of Polly and her home, and diary entries about her by one of her neighbors.
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