Celebrating Wyoming Suffrage And Beyond

Wyoming Public Media honors the 150th anniversary women's right to vote. In 1869, legislation granting women the right to vote and hold office was passed. In 2020, we commemorate the first vote cast by a Wyoming woman. She cast her vote in the small town of Laramie, 50 years before women could vote in the rest of the nation. Women shaped the West in the days of the great westward migrations. In Wyoming they broke the glass ceiling and established parity in our nation's voting laws. Since then, Wyoming's women have continued to blaze the way. This page captures some of their achievements.

Watch NPR's Susan Stamberg Keynote address "Inspiring Women" as part of the Wyoming Women's Suffrage Celebration

On December 10, Wyoming commemorated the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

Equality State Policy Center

The Equality State Policy Center, a nonpartisan advocacy group, is holding a live event to discuss the power of women voting. It will host Wyoming women political leaders on Thursday, July 16.

Nimi McConigley

Even though women in Wyoming were allowed to vote, run for office and get involved in politics back in 1870, it took much longer after that for women of color to get elected.

The first Black woman to get elected to office in Wyoming was Elizabeth Byrd. She started out in the Wyoming House of Representatives, in 1981. That's close to a century later after women were first granted the right to vote and run for office.

What took so long?

There's an ongoing debate in the American West about which state granted women the right to vote first. Wyoming ratified the decision first in 1869 but didn't vote until the fall of the next year; but Utah women actually went to the polls seven months earlier than that.

Either way, it was Western states that made the leap, and a new book called No Place For A Woman: The Struggle for Suffrage in the Wild West explores what it was about Western women that made them such suffragists.

Wyoming Public Radio's Melodie Edwards interviewed author Chris Enss.

Courtesy


The University of Wyoming's student government, also known as ASUW, has historically been male-dominated. This year, two women were elected to President and Vice President. That may be for the first time ever. But there's no way to know, since ASUW records don't always account for gender. Wyoming Public Radio's Maggie Mullen spoke with President Riley Talamantes and Vice President Courtney Titus about what it was like to be one of the few, if only, two-women tickets to win the election.

Bob Beck


In Wyoming history, only 119 women have won legislative races. Since about half of the state is made up of women, it means they seriously lack representation. It's an issue that has been discussed for years, though little gets done.

Wyoming Newspapers (newspapers.wyo.gov)

In 1869, journalism looked very different than it does today. There weren't the quotes or perspectives from both sides. Wyoming Public Radio's Cooper McKim dug into the archives to try and use journalism to learn more about women's suffrage. What he found wasn't much, but found out it was critical. Jennifer Helton, a Wyoming native and expert in the state's suffrage history, gives some background to the state was like in 1869 and how she used journalism to learn more about it.

Susan Simpson

The legal right to vote doesn't always translate to the ability to vote. 

There can be barriers to the polls, says Susan Simpson, the president of the League of Women Voters of Wyoming. That's a nonpartisan organization that provides information on political candidates and works for higher participation in the political process. Simpson talked with Wyoming Public Radio's Erin Jones about how Wyoming measures up when it comes to voting access.

Julie Greer

When Kristen Czaban started at the Sheridan Press in June 2008 as a new reporter, she thought she'd stay for a year, get experience and move on.

Collection of the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum

Early May, the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum hosted virtual beers and banter over Zoom.

"I'm excited that we're able to come together and celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the first all women council," said Morgan Jaouen, the executive director of the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum.

Bethann Garramon Merkle

Her Flag is a nationwide project celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave some U.S. women the right to vote. Bethann Garramon Merkle is a research scientist at the University of Wyoming and one of the women chosen to participate in the Her Flag project.

Archives On The Air 189: Wyoming Women Making Democracy Work

Mar 13, 2020
American Heritage Center

The League of Women Voters was a grassroots organization formed in 1920 to teach women in the U.S. how to use their new voting power after passage of the 19th amendment. 

Archives On The Air 181: Wyoming's First Woman Secretary Of State—Thyra Thomson Papers

Mar 12, 2020
American Heritage Center

The Wyoming State Senate had a heated debate over the Equal Rights Amendment in 1973.

Wyoming's Secretary of State Thyra Thomson argued that despite being the Equality State, gender bias still existed.

Archives On The Air 171: The Struggles And Triumph Of Liz Byrd—Elizabeth "Liz" Byrd Family Papers

Mar 11, 2020
American Heritage Center

Liz Byrd was the first black woman to serve in the Wyoming State Legislature.

Growing up as an African American in Wyoming in the 1930s and 40s was not easy. In high school Byrd was denied service in a Cheyenne drugstore. Her white classmates threw the ice from their drinks over the counter and walked out.

American Heritage Center

Leona Wells came to Wyoming from Illinois in 1898 because she wanted the right to vote. Wyoming’s U.S. Senator Francis E. Warren hired her as a staffer. She became one of the very rare well-paid professional women on Capitol Hill.

The Wyoming Council for Women is encouraging women throughout the state to fill out an online survey. It asks about issues that impact women’s daily lives at home and in the workplace.

Wyoming PBS

December 10 marks the 150th anniversary of Wyoming becoming the first state to allow women to vote, and there will be several celebrations around Northeast Wyoming.

Northwest College

Students from Northwest College will present their findings on women in Wyoming as part of a celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Women's Suffrage in Wyoming.

Women's Suffrage Limerick Contest Winners

Nov 22, 2019
Wyoming House for Historic Women

In celebration of 150 years of women's suffrage in Wyoming, the University of Wyoming Department of History presented a limerick contest. Here are the winning entries.

Kamila Kudelska

October 26 marks the opening of an exhibit at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West focusing on women throughout Wyoming. It showcases large-scale portraits and interviews with the women. The photographer Lindsay Linton Buk has traveled around the state to meet and learn their stories. Wyoming Public Radio's Kamila Kudelska sat down with the photographer and the two women co-curators of the exhibit, Karen McWhorter and Rebecca West and asked what stood out about this collection of portraits.

Enter The Wyoming Women's Suffrage Limerick Contest

Sep 5, 2019

Help celebrate one hundred and fifty years of women's suffrage in Wyoming-by writing a limerick!

Photo provided by Meaghan Todd

 

Around three-quarters of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the state of politics in the country. That's according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted just before the 2018 mid-term election.

Archives On The Air 163: Wyoming Defends Women's Suffrage—Morton E. Post Family Papers

Jun 17, 2019

2020 marks one hundred years since the nineteenth amendment allowed women to vote in the U.S. But Wyoming women have had the right to vote for 50 years longer than the rest of the country.

ThinkWY

The Wyoming Humanities Council is releasing a new podcast that celebrates the 150-year anniversary of women's suffrage in the state. Wyoming was the first state to give women the right to vote in 1869, and it was on September 6, 1870 that Louisa Swain cast the first ballot by a woman.

Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

A much more concerted effort is underway to abolish the death penalty in Wyoming. The League of Women Voters, religious groups, the Wyoming ACLU and Wyoming's chapter of the NAACP have organized a campaign after an effort to abolish capital punishment failed in the State Senate this year after passing the House. Sabrina King of Wyoming's ACLU is leading the nine month campaign to gain support for the effort and she discusses the effort with Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck.

Tennessee Watson / Wyoming Public Radio

Mary Ellbogen Garland is this year's recipient of the "Making Democracy Work" award. The League of Women Voters of Wyoming gives the annual award to recognize contributions to the vitality of the state's communities.

When you talk to Virginia Democrats these days, you hear a lot of words like "disappointing" and "frustrating."

That's because the men at the top of state government — and at the center of these scandals — have been well-liked by a lot of people who worked hard to help elect them.

"It really is kind of a hard thing to reckon with — some of your heroes either causing embarrassment or shame or disappointment or anger," said Alexsis Rodgers, president of Virginia Young Democrats.

Kamila Kudelska

It's a windy and freezing afternoon in Cody. A bunch of women are gathered around a table at the Chamberlin Inn in Cody, chatting about the dynamic of their relationships.

On Monday, Nevada's statehouse begins its legislative session by marking a major milestone. It's the first time in our nation's history that any state legislature holds a majority of female lawmakers. Just like the country, the body is slightly more than half women.

"It's been a long, hard fight. I'm starting to see some of the fruits of not just my labor, but the labor of so many other people whose names I don't know," says Patricia Ann Spearman, a Democrat and Nevada senator who was first elected in 2012.

Bob Beck

This week the legislature's Senate Corporations and Elections Committee entertained a couple of bills that would change how people vote in the primary election. One was a Republican Party driven bill that would keep people from changing parties after a specific date.

It was crafted in response to last year's GOP gubernatorial primary where some think democrats helped determine the outcome by crossing over and voting in the Republican primary. Committee Chairman Bill Landen of Casper was not convinced that something needed to be done.

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