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.

Erik Hersman

If you're confused about where to vote, or what you need to bring with you to the polls, there's now a 24/7 hotline addressing those concerns. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wyoming and the Equality State Policy Center established the hotline.

Christine Garcia, a 37-year-old stay-at-home mom, doesn't consider herself a particularly political person. But like a lot of women, she has strong opinions about President Trump.

"Maybe on the business side ... the money is better as far as I understand," Garcia said. "But a lot of the other things are very worrisome," she added with a laugh, as she pushed her daughter on a swing in a park in Birmingham, Mich., an affluent suburb of Detroit.

Garcia considers herself a fiscal conservative but a social liberal.

Editor's note: NPR is examining the role of women in the 2018 midterm elections all week. To follow upcoming coverage and look back at how the role of women in the 2014 midterms was covered, click here.

The 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express

Wyoming is ranked 42nd in the nation for growth of women-owned businesses since 2007, with a 22 percent increase in that time. That’s compared to a 58 percent increase of women-owned businesses nationwide. But Wyoming still ranks in the top ten for women’s businesses that employ large numbers of people.

The 2018 midterms could be the year of the woman and possibly the independent as well - especially in Colorado.

In October of 2013, the federal government shut down for 16 days — the third longest shutdown in history. A few women in particular came together to end the gridlock, including Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Minnesota Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Afterward, Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor gave those women credit in a speech on the Senate floor.

On a recent afternoon in Albuquerque, N.M., Deb Haaland sits with a thick stack of paper in front of her, calling donors to thank them for their contributions and to ask them for more money.

After winning her Democratic primary, Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, a Native American tribe, is running for the U.S. House in a strongly Democratic district in New Mexico. That means she may soon be the first Native American woman in Congress.

Wyoming Secretary of State's Office

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, and the Wyoming Department of Transportation will designate a 19 mile stretch of Highway 28 in Fremont County as the "Wyoming Women's Suffrage Pathway."

University of Wyoming

If your name is John, you’re more likely to run a large company or be a politician than if you’re a woman with any name. That’s according to the latest "Glass Ceiling Index" by the New York Times. So does this under-representation hold true in our region’s so-called "Equality State"?

Mary Wilson raised just under $40,000 for her Texas congressional campaign. One of her opponents, Joseph Kopser, raised $774,000, but she came in first in the Democratic primary for the 21st Congressional District near Austin and San Antonio.

Not only did she outdo Kopser, whom she will face in a May runoff, but Wilson also defeated two other men who had much larger campaign war chests than she did.

It just so happens that Wilson did all this in a year when female candidates have energized Democratic voters. So did being a woman help Wilson?

She says yes.

Wyoming State Historical Society

The Wyoming House passed a bill to create a day commemorating Estelle Reel. She was the first woman elected to a statewide office in 1894, as the Superintendent of Public Instruction.  

 

While the majority of lawmakers wanted to recognize Reel’s accomplishment, House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly said Reel’s discriminatory attitude toward Native Americans and women should make them think twice.

 

Connolly said she researched Reel and read multiple articles.

 

It was Saturday afternoon, and Abigail Spanberger was in a busy hallway at the Chesterfield County Public Library in Midlothian, Va., minutes away from training a room of about 40 campaign volunteers. She seemed ready for a quick interview, but then abruptly called out to her campaign manager.

"Hey Dana, Eileen Davis is about to come through. Can you head her off at the pass so she doesn't interrupt the — "

She cut herself off and turned to me.

"That's my mother," Spanberger said, laughing.

Her mom is volunteering for her campaign?

"Evidently."

Maggie Mullen

Women’s March Wyoming organizers are working to ensure safety after a potentially threatening comment was left on a Facebook post about the Cheyenne march. The comment referenced “claymores” and “c4” – types of explosives – saying they would come in handy at a march.

Wyoming House for Historic Women

Wyoming is rapidly approaching its 150th anniversary of granting women the right to vote – the first government in the world to do so unconditionally.

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Wyoming Women Rise

At just 11 percent, Wyoming currently has the lowest percentage of female legislators of any state in the country. Now, one woman is trying to improve that ratio.

Samantha Case is the founder of Wyoming Women Rise, a proposed non-profit that would provide non-partisan campaign training for women.

Currently, the Wyoming Women’s Caucus puts on Leap Into Leadership, which provides workshops that encourage women to take on leadership roles in their communities and consider running for office. But Case said there was still a need for an organization that goes a step further.

Wyoming Legislature

March 8 is International Women’s Day. All over the country women skipped work and participated in marches and rallies to spotlight women’s economic contributions as a part of an action called "A Day Without a Woman."

Wyoming Art Party

All across the country Wednesday, women, including some in Wyoming, went on strike in order to demonstrate their economic power as part of  “A Day Without Women.” The event coincided with International Women’s Day.

Laramie resident Heather Rockwell said she decided to take the day off from her job after she participated in the Women’s March in Cheyenne in January. She said she has never gone on strike before.

“I’m also an hourly worker,” said Rockwell. “So it’s sort of one those situations of if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. And I was willing to accept that.”

Leap Into Leadership

On Monday, women gathered from around the state to attend the tenth annual Leap Into Leadership conference. This year’s conference focused on how to cultivate a more respectful discourse in state politics.

Former U.S. Senator and Bipartisan Policy Center fellow Olympia Snowe was the keynote speaker. She talked about how bipartisanship has never been an easy job, not even when the founding fathers crafted the constitution.

Wyoming Legislature

State Representatives Marti Halverson and Cathy Connolly are unlikely allies. Halverson has been a supporter of religious rights bills in the past, while Connolly is the state’s only openly gay lawmaker. But there’s one thing they do agree on: the need for an in-depth study Wyoming’s gender wage gap which reports say is the worst in the nation.

Caroline Ballard

After President Donald Trump was inaugurated, marches and protests were held in cities around the world, and in communities around Wyoming. Cheyenne, Casper, Rock Springs, Jackson, Cody, Lander, and Pinedale all hosted marches and thousands of Wyomingites participated. Now, many of them are asking themselves what comes next.

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What are your thoughts on the Women's March? If you participated or witnessed it, tell us your experience. Post your photos or videos in the comments below if you would like to share them.

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Wyoming Women March

Jan 23, 2017
Maggie Mullen

Cities and towns all over the world and communities across Wyoming hosted women’s marches on Saturday in response to President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

In Cheyenne, 1,200 people from the city and surrounding areas marched on Capitol Avenue. There was enough of an interest in the Laramie community that the non-profit, Forward Wyoming, rented a chartered bus to transport marchers to Cheyenne.

At the capitol, a huge crowd gathered with large banners and glittery uterus signs. Katie Christensen brought her four-month-old daughter.

The Modern West 19: Women Run The West, Part 2

Jan 18, 2017
Caroline Ballard

In the final part of this series, we ask why Western women still lag in political power even though they got the right to vote almost 150 years ago?

Wyoming Women’s Caucus

  

For the last 22 years, women have held Wyoming's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Retiring Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) is being replaced by Liz Cheney. Lummis herself replaced Barbara Cubin, who was elected to the seat in 1994. Cubin was the first woman to ever hold the seat, breaking down barriers that had been in place for generations. 

Women Run The West

Over the last year, Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard and Jennifer Pemberton, formerly of Utah Public Radio and currently working for KTOO in Juneau, Alaska, have tracked the political representation of women in western states in the collaboration Women Run The West.

Wyoming State Legislature

There will be fewer women serving in Wyoming's legislature after Tuesday's election. A large number of women ran for seats in the state house and senate, 37 total. But only 10 won their races.

Currently, Wyoming has the lowest representation of women in its legislature in the country, with just 12 women currently in office.

Cathy Connolly, the House District 13 representative, said she is at a loss for why the state ended up losing female representatives.

Marian Orr

Marian Orr has been elected to be Cheyenne’s next Mayor.  Orr won Cheyenne’s hotly contested mayoral race with 56 percent of the vote.

Throughout her campaign, she said she was focused on repairing infrastructure in the city, especially roads, and improving the city’s police force. Now she said it will be a matter of moving funds around.

Caroline Ballard

As voters cast their ballots this Election Day in the first race to feature a major-party female candidate for President, some Laramie residents gathered to honor the first female voter. In 1870, Wyoming became the first state to give women the right to vote. Laramie resident Louisa Swain was the first woman to exercise that right. 

Around 50 voters gathered at the statue of Swain in Laramie Tuesday to pay their respects and to voice support for female candidates, including presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Mayoral candidates Marian Orr and Amy Surdam were friends for a couple of years. Then, they each learned the other was seeking to become Cheyenne’s next mayor. Marian Orr said they decided to meet up.

“We had coffee,” said Orr. “I knew that she was considering, and I wanted to be very upfront with her that I was considering the race, as well.”

Amy Surdam remembered the meeting, as well.

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