Wyoming Women's Suffrage Celebration, 2019-2020

History

We have contributed some entries to the Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States, described on this link. See our page of Biographical Sketches of Historical Figures.

Other states and countries have granted women the right to vote in limited circumstances. The Territory of Wyoming was the first to pass general and unconditional suffrage for female citizens.

Female Suffrage Highlights

Other Sources for History

The Albany County Historical Society Facebook page

Annals of Wyoming 1990: Special Issue with download options

Guide to University of Wyoming Suffrage Archives

Please check back for additional references on this page.

Opinion Piece on Wyoming Suffrage History
Published in the Laramie Boomerang on April 27th, 2019

It Happened in 1869, and It Happened Here

By Robin Hill and Amy Williamson, Laramie

On December 10 , 1869, the Territory of Wyoming became the first government in known history to grant permanent general and unconditional female suffrage. As we observe the preparations for the national commemoration of the 19th Amendment (ratified in 1920), which did the same for the nation, it seems that the American recollection has become detached from its early history. Plans for celebration of national female suffrage turn to the national campaigns of 1900 - 1920 rather than the much earlier triumphs in the American West. Of course, the struggles to pass the 19th Amendment were much more dramatic, and began in the eastern and more heavily populated states with plenty of newspapers to get the word out.

It is a long 1800 miles from Washington DC and the eastern centers of political activity to Wyoming and those neighboring states pursuing similar campaigns at about the same time, and a long time from 1869 to the emergence of serious female suffrage struggles in the East at the turn of the century.

Although both houses of the Wyoming Territorial Legislature argued over it, they passed the act that granted women the right to vote and to hold office just a few months into their first session (late in 1869), and the first woman voted in September of 1870. In 1871 an attempt to repeal the act failed--though just barely. In 1890, Wyoming entered the Union, preserving female suffrage against Congressional objection, as the first state in which women could vote.

Significant as those events were, they lacked the circumstances necessary to a heroic tale. Motivations of course were mixed, some ignoble by today's standards, with strains of ambition, temperance debate, party maneuvers, frivolity, gallantry, and racism making appearances within the context of promotion of civil rights. As should be obvious, all those who cast their votes in the Territorial Legislature were men. Strong women exercised their influence, of course, some of whom are well known in the state and some not. Against a background of the pressing problems and rough governance of a territory, proponents simply convinced the legislators that this was the right thing to do. Surely, especially in today's world, that should be worthy of widespread note.

Securing of the vote for women might have happened in another time or in another place. But it happened in 1869 and it happened here. We have enjoyed 150 years of the women's vote, thanks to a campaign beset by predictable political and social resistance, but not bitter or violent conflict. Our history should enjoy the same recognition nationally as those more adversarial struggles of the rest of the country. Americans will be celebrating 100 years of national female suffrage in 2020, the centennial of its ratification by the requisite three quarters of the states. We invite all, and especially the citizens of Wyoming, to take part in the Wyoming Women's Suffrage Celebration, 2019 to 2020, the sesquicentennial of a progressive Act by a frontier legislature.