The history of women in the West includes little about women as librarians. Librarians who came West were looking for professional and administrative opportunities away from the established centers of library authority in the East. Western states hired state library organizers to oversee library development. The women who accepted these positions enjoyed professional autonomy, responsibility, and power unavailable to other professional women. Mary Elizabeth Downey was one such librarian. This study gives a voice to these women and provides insight into the western American social and cultural environment that permitted them to attain this level of public power.