Wyoming Gives Women the Vote Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Long before ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 guaranteed all American women the right to vote, western territories and state, beginning with Wyoming, granted woman suffrage.

Summary of Event

When John Adams was helping to draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776, his wife, Abigail Adams Adams, Abigail , wrote to him, “In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies.” Despite her gentle prodding, however, the ladies were not remembered. When the U.S. Constitution Constitution, U.S.;and woman suffrage[Woman suffrage] was drafted eleven years later, there was considerable debate concerning who would be eligible to vote. In the end, the decision about who could vote was left to the individual states to decide. The vote was extended to those in each state qualified to vote for state legislature members. This effectively limited the vote to men. Wyoming;woman suffrage Woman suffrage;western states [kw]Wyoming Gives Women the Vote (Dec., 1869) [kw]Gives Women the Vote, Wyoming (Dec., 1869) [kw]Women the Vote, Wyoming Gives (Dec., 1869) [kw]Vote, Wyoming Gives Women the (Dec., 1869) Wyoming;woman suffrage Woman suffrage;western states [g]United States;Dec., 1869: Wyoming Gives Women the Vote[4370] [c]Women’s issues;Dec., 1869: Wyoming Gives Women the Vote[4370] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;Dec., 1869: Wyoming Gives Women the Vote[4370] Catt, Carrie Chapman Morris, Esther

In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s convention organized with the express purpose of improving the position of women through education, suffrage, and more liberal marriage laws. At that gathering, the Declaration of Sentiments was formulated, paralleling the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Woman suffrage was a specific point included in this resolution. Finally, two decades later, a territory known for its rugged frontier philosophy granted suffrage to women.

When the Union Pacific Union Pacific Railroad Railroad entered Wyoming Wyoming;and railroads[Railroads] in 1867, thousands of people poured into the area. Lawlessness abounded, with murders, robberies, holdups, and other criminal activity running rampant. Local settlers petitioned Congress for the right to establish a territorial government, and the request was approved by Congress and President Andrew Johnson. A territorial government officially was established in Wyoming in May, 1869.

Wyoming’s first election was held in September, 1869, to select the delegates to the first legislature for Wyoming. Esther Morris Morris, Esther , a transplant from the East, had an understanding of woman suffrage issues and had only recently heard a lecture by Susan B. Anthony. With information at hand, she invited twenty of the most influential men in the state to dinner. With a clarity of purpose and persuasive skill, she exacted from each guest a promise to support woman suffrage if he was elected. Morris herself later became the first female justice of the peace in the nation.

William H. Bright Bright, William H. , one of Morris’s dinner guests, was elected president of the council when the legislature later convened. Bright told his wife, “I have made up my mind that I will do everything in my power to give you the ballot.” He soon set about the task of convincing the all-Democrat legislature of the gain associated with presenting a vote for woman suffrage for all the world to see. On November 27, 1869, Bright introduced the suffrage bill. Before the year was out, Wyoming became the first territory to adopt woman suffrage and. In 1890, Wyoming became the first state to be admitted to the union with general woman suffrage.

Women voting in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

(Library of Congress)

In 1876, as Colorado Colorado;woman suffrage prepared for statehood at its constitutional convention, the question of woman suffrage was submitted. The amendment, which came up for vote in early 1877, was defeated. Much discussion at that time centered on the fact that African Americans had recently been enfranchised and some indemnity was therefore due to women. Although the 1877 measure failed, the idea of suffrage for women never really died out in Colorado.

In 1893, a nonelection year, a new discussion of the women’s vote developed in Colorado. Populists were in control of the Senate and Republicans of the House. Wyoming, directly to the north, had not experienced the problems many had predicted would ensue from women voters. It was in this climate that a referendum granting the vote to women was proposed. According to Colorado’s Colorado;constitution State constitutions;Colorado 1876 constitution, women could be granted suffrage if confirmed by referendum. Voters were simply asked to confirm or deny women’s right to vote. The measure was confirmed by a margin of more than six thousand votes. Women gathered in front of suffrage headquarters upon hearing of their victory and sang “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” Suffragists left that gathering believing that the battle that had been won in Colorado could be won in every western state.

Earlier, the women of Utah Utah;woman suffrage had held the right to vote. In February of 1870, the acting governor of Utah had signed the Act Conferring Upon Women of Utah the Elective Franchise in the Territory of Utah. This act admitted nearly forty times as many women voters as Wyoming had admitted. However, the road to permanent suffrage for the women of Utah was rocky. In 1887, seventeen years after passage of this act, suffrage for women was withdrawn by congressional action. The federal Edmunds-Tucker Bill disfranchised people who were involved in plural marriages Marriage;plural Polygamy, Mormon Mormons;and polygamy[Polygamy] , which were condoned by the Mormon Church.

At that time, Utah was attempting to gain statehood and was deeply embroiled in political issues revolving around the Mormon religious practice of polygamy. Mormon women who had voted were accused of voting the Mormon ticket and therefore not generally supporting the national suffrage movement. It was not until 1896 that the women of Utah could legally vote again. When Utah Utah;admission to union was finally admitted to statehood, the state constitution Utah;constitution State constitutions;Utah , submitted to Congress for review, contained an equal-suffrage clause, which was approved by 67 percent of the male voters.

In November, 1896, the voters of Idaho Idaho;woman suffrage were asked, “Shall Section 2, of Article VI, of the constitution of the state of Idaho be so amended as to extend to women an equal right of suffrage?” When voters went to the polls, the amendment was carried by almost two to one. Elizabeth Ingram Ingram, Elizabeth , a schoolteacher from a small Idaho town, formed the first woman suffrage organization of Idaho in 1893. However, it was the strong involvement of national woman suffrage workers, such as Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt Catt, Carrie Chapman , that was ultimately responsible for passage of women’s vote legislation in Idaho.

Significance

In 1910, more than eight million American women participated in the paid labor force, yet most could not vote in general elections. By the time the Nineteenth Amendment was passed in 1920, guaranteeing women the right to vote throughout the United States, many states had already passed woman suffrage legislation. Among these states were Washington, Washington State;woman suffrage which granted women the vote in 1910; California, California;woman suffrage 1911; Oregon Oregon;woman suffrage , Arizona Arizona;woman suffrage , and Kansas Kansas;woman suffrage , 1912; Montana Montana;woman suffrage and Nevada Nevada;woman suffrage , 1914; New York New York State;woman suffrage , 1917; and South Dakota South Dakota;woman suffrage , Oklahoma Oklahoma;woman suffrage , and Michigan Michigan;woman suffrage , 1918. Clearly, the West and Midwest dominated the country in advancing the right of women to vote. Numerous other states had approved some woman suffrage. Most southern states had no statewide enfranchisement of women. The year 1920 was a presidential election year, and for the first time, women across the country were able to participate in the election.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Baker, Jean H, ed. Votes for Women: The Struggle for Suffrage Revisited. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2002. Solidly researched work that examines the entire history of the woman suffrage movement.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Beeton, Beverly. Women Vote in the West: The Woman Suffrage Movement, 1869-1896. New York: Garland, 1986. Provides a thorough discussion of the states that first granted suffrage to women. Gives particular attention to Utah’s woman suffrage fight.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Catt, Carrie Chapman, and Nettie Rogers Shuler. Woman Suffrage and Politics. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926. Firsthand information on the fight for woman suffrage, written by a founder of the woman suffrage movement.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Coolidge, Olivia. Women’s Rights: The Suffrage Movement in America, 1848-1920. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1966. Shows the tone of the early years of the movement and provides a time line of suffrage events.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gurko, Miriam. The Ladies of Seneca Falls: The Birth of the Woman’s Rights Movement. New York: Macmillan, 1974. An early history, with particular emphasis on Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott. Contains the wording of the Declaration of Sentiments.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McFadden, Margaret, ed. Women’s Issues. 3 vols. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 1997. Comprehensive reference work with numerous articles on woman suffrage and related issues.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Schneir, Miriam. Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings. New York: Random House, 1972. Contains excerpts of writings by well-known suffragists and brief discussions of the history of these women.

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New Zealand Women Win Voting Rights

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