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A look at women's suffrage in Wyoming and the U.S.

 

November 7, 2019

Karla Pomeroy

Worland teacher Christy Vickers speaks about the history of women's suffrage in the United States and in Wyoming during the Friends of the Worland Library luncheon at St. Alban's Episcopal Church Saturday, Oct. 26.

WORLAND - Women and women's suffrage in the United States and Wyoming were celebrated by the Friends of the Worland Library during their fundraising luncheon last month.

The keynote address by Christy Vickers focused on the women's suffrage movement both at the national and state level.

Vickers noted that at the national level in 1860 a poll was conducted and found that most common fears of women getting the right to vote were:

•Politics were dirty and immoral and women would become corrupted.

•The woman's place was in the home.

•Only bad and ignorant women would vote.

•Women did not know enough about government to trust them with the vote.

•Respect for women would diminish if they were given the right to vote.

•Voting would unsex them.

•It's contrary to the Bible.

•Women would only vote the same way as the men in the home and thus double the vote.

•Women would vote against the man of the house and that would cause disunion and disharmony at home.

Vickers said when Wyoming began looking at giving women the right to vote there were some reasons including good public relations.

Wyoming had many milestones for women's suffrage.

"This year and next year hold many milestones for the state of Wyoming," said Diane Shober, executive director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism (WOT) and member of the Governor's Council for the Wyoming Women's Suffrage Celebration. "We want to see every town and destination getting involved, not only to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Wyoming women's suffrage, but also to recognize the incredible women in Wyoming today."

On December 10, 1869, the Wyoming territory passed the first unconditional law in the United States guaranteeing women their inherent right to vote and hold public office – more than 50 years prior to the U.S. ratification of the 19th amendment. Then on September 6, 1870, the first woman to vote in a presidential election cast the ballot in Laramie, Wyoming. As the nation prepares for the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment in 2020, Wyoming will continue to celebrate its milestone anniversaries well before, according to a WOT press release.

Significant Dates for Wyoming Women's History

While often referred to as the "Cowboy State," Wyoming's true nickname is the "Equality State" for its role in women's suffrage.

•Dec 10, 2019 - 150th Anniversary of Governor Campbell signing the Women's Suffrage Act into law officially making Wyoming the first place in the U.S. granting women their inherent right to vote, to serve on a jury or to hold public office without restriction (i.e. without property, ownership, monetary or marital requirements).

•Jan 27, 2020 - 100th anniversary of State of Wyoming ratifying the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

•July 10, 2020 - 130th Anniversary of Statehood Day - Wyoming enters the Union as the 44th state and the only state to have a Suffrage Act ratified into their state constitution.

•Aug 18, 2020 - 100th Anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, thus making women's suffrage legal in all of the U.S.

•Sept 6, 2020 - 150th Anniversary of the Women's First Vote - In Laramie, Wyoming, Louisa Swain became the first woman in the world to cast a ballot under new democratically enacted suffrage laws.

Twenty years after the 1869 law passed, Wyoming sought statehood and it famously refused to enter the Union if women's suffrage was not upheld. In 1890, Wyoming officially entered the Union as the 44th state and the first state to grant women these inherent rights.

Vickers also outlined the numerous firsts for Wyoming women including Esther Hobart Morris, appointed Feb. 17, 1870, in South Pass City, as the first female justice of the peace in the United States; and Nellie Tayloe Ross as the first female governor in the U.S. in 1924.

Other firsts for women in the United States that occurred in Wyoming, according to the Wyoming State Historical Society include:

•First women to serve on a jury was in Laramie on March 7, 1870.

•First female baliff, Martha Symons Boies Atkinson to see to the needs of the 1870 jury.

•Louisa Swain of Laramie cast the first documented vote by a woman in Wyoming on Sept. 6, 1870.

•First presidential election in which women voted (only in Wyoming) was in 1892.

•First woman elected to a statewide office in Wyoming, Estelle Reel, superintendent of public instruction in 1894. The first statewide office elected in the United States was Laura J. Eisenhuth to the same office in North Dakota in 1892.

•First female legislator was Mary Godat Bellamy in 1910.

•First female mayor was Susan Wissler in Dayton in 1912.

•First town governed by women was Jackson in 1920.

•First female state senator was Dora McGrath of Hot Springs County in 1931.

•First female state treasurer was Minnie Mitchell in 1953. Mitchell was also the first female state auditor in 1955.

•First female Wyoming secretary of state was Thyra Thompson in 1963.

•First female U.S. Congresswoman was Barbara Cubin in 1995.

•First female president of the University of Wyoming was Laurie Nichols in 2015.

For more firsts see wyohistory.org.

 
 

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