Wyoming, known as the “equality state,” played an important role in the suffrage movement. On December 10th, 1869 women were given the right to vote – some 50 years before the 19th amendment passed in 1920.
Western states led the nation in approving women’s suffrage, but some of them had rather unsavory motives. Though some men recognized the important role women played in frontier settlement, others voted for women’s suffrage only to bolster the strength of conservative voting blocks. In Wyoming, some men were also motivated by sheer loneliness–in 1869, the territory had over 6,000 adult males and only 1,000 females, and area men hoped women would be more likely to settle in the rugged and isolated country if they were granted the right to vote.
“According to a booklet published by the Laramie Plains Museum, “Laramie, Wyoming, Women Made World History,” the first Legislature for the new Wyoming Territory met in October 1869, they passed laws guaranteeing equal pay for male and female teachers and giving individual property rights to married woman.” by Eve Newman – Laramie Boomerang.
Laramie’s, Louisa Gardener Swain, a 70 year old Quaker woman became the first woman in the world to cast a ballot under laws giving women full equality to men on September 6th, 1870.
Martha Symons Boies became the first woman in the world appointed as a bailiff in Laramie in March 1870. In February 1870, three women were commissioned as justices of the peace in Wyoming, although only one, Esther Morris, was known to have actually served as a judge. She tried more than forty cases in the territory. She lost none on appeal and was widely regarded as a good judge, but wasn’t nominated for re-election when her term ended.
Elisa Stewart became the first woman subpoenaed to serve on a court jury. She was also Laramie’s first school teacher. The first women jurors began their service in March or April of 1870. In T. A. Larson’s A History of Wyoming, the author writes that male jurors stopped smoking and chewing tobacco once women began to serve alongside them. Men stopped gambling and drinking during their jury breaks.
It is a state rich in history but the role Wyoming played in the women’s suffrage movement can not be under estimated. We are nearing the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. The more I think about the women who fought with single-minded determination against odds that stagger me I think, remember, remember these historical figures, don’t forget what they did for you.
Laramie, home of the University of Wyoming a beautiful old campus. I saw an old black and white photo of the campus in its infancy. There stood the historic limestone building “Old Main,” standing naked in 1886 like a new born baby all alone. No beautiful tree’s like now, no lovely green, no nothing but a barren landscape. Now 122 years later a proud, picturesque campus exists.
From Lewellen, Nebraska to Laramie,Wyoming
Two-hundred and thirty windy miles between Lewellen Nebraska and Laramie, Wyoming. Nine days of riding, three days held up in Pine Bluff ‘s rodeo grounds waiting out wet, stormy weather. Nebraska’s flat farm country now busy with million dollar tractors – seeding, spraying preparing the great plains soil has given way for Wyoming’s big, windy, audacious cattle country.
When I say, “No I do not travel with a support team,” I have to laugh. I had a team on this short run! Jeanie Grace, Barbara Burns, Rosie Rollin, Thelma Thompson and Deb Sullivan kept tabs on me,
checked up, made camping arrangements and route suggestions. Goodness ladies!!! I am now at the Hal and Barbara Burns residence north of Laramie, they are kindly hosting my stay. The Burns have been in the rodeo stock business for generations providing bucking horses and bulls for the rodeo circuit. The famous bucking bull, “Mr. T” came from Burn’s stock. Hal told me an interesting thing, He said anything western like rodeos and cowboy is a huge draw. The rodeos all across the United States are sell outs, packed audiences but… there are not enough contestants. Cowboy contestants came off ranches to compete. Ranches that work with “real cowboys” are in decline. “We just don’t have the cowboys like we once did” said Hal. Interesting,wonder what will happen?
Inclement weather and roads I planned on riding remain closed due to snow makes travel difficult. Nothing new when one is long riding. I’m inching my way back to Montana.