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.

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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.

The Modern West 16: Women Run The West, Part 1

Oct 17, 2016
Jennifer Pemberton

Women are running, but they aren’t winning the West. Western women got the right to vote almost 150 years ago, so why do they still lag in political power?

Maggie Mullen

The Undersecretary, Kevin Concannon, was in Cheyenne to learn more about the organization’s approach to helping low-income single moms. Concannon said Climb Wyoming is one of the best programs of its kind in the country.

Caroline Ballard

On a hot and sunny July day Julie McCallister readied herself for a day of campaigning at Saratoga Days, decked out in her “Elect Julie McCallister” polo.

McCallister was running for the Wyoming State House seat in House District 47.

In the art show at the Platte Valley Community Center, McCallister approached potential voters, chatting about everything from the art to why she is qualified to serve.

When Women Run, Women Win...Except When They Don't

Sep 23, 2016
Jennifer Pemberton

There are currently 10 women serving in the Utah House of Representatives and 6 in the state senate. Together they make up 15% of the 104 elected state legislators. This puts Utah in the bottom 10 states for percentage of women represented in the state legislature.

There are a lot of reasons for the disparity between men and women serving as elected state officials, but according to Katie Ziegler with the National Convention of State Legislatures, none of them has to do with electability:

Caroline Ballard

  

Nearly 150 years ago, Wyoming was the first place in the country to grant women the right to vote. Congress didn't pass the 19th amendment, guaranteeing all American women the right to vote, until 1919, and it was ratified by states in 1920. Wyoming was ahead of its time, giving women the vote in 1869, but there are conflicting accounts as to why the state was a trailblazer.

When The Equal Rights Amendment Came To Utah

Aug 26, 2016
Caroline Ballard

Women are only mentioned in the Constitution once: in the Nineteenth Amendment which grants women the right to vote. In 1923, suffragists proposed an amendment that would protect women’s rights across the board, but when the vote came to Utah, it was blocked by the Mormon Church.

History was made at the Democratic National Convention this past week. Hillary Clinton, as the first female presidential candidate of a major U.S. party, is officially embarking an unprecedented American political campaign.

We asked women — as young as 4 and as old 77 — how much the weight of history factored into their decision. Listen:

Bob Beck

Getting people to run for the legislature can be a challenge, but this year Wyoming has had no problem attracting candidates. In 2014 Democrats made a strong push to get more people to run and they came up with 32 candidates. This year the number is 64. Even Republicans have more candidates running than two years ago. Jason Swadley of Ballotpedia studies elections.

“In all of the areas where we look at competitiveness, this year Wyoming is actually much more competitive than the U.S. average.”

WYOMING PUBLIC MEDIA

Welcome to a special edition of Open Spaces from Wyoming Public Radio News. We bring you a conversation about Women in the Wyoming Legislature…and why there are so few of them. This panel was recorded live earlier this year at the Leap Into Leadership conference, in conjunction with Leadership Wyoming Class of 2016. We’ll hear about some of the barriers that women face when they want to run for office.

We’ll discuss why it’s important to have women in the legislature, and how we can better encourage women to run for office. 

Wyoming is sometimes called the Equality State — it had the nation's first female governor and was the first territory to give women the right to vote. But that legacy isn't visible on the floor of the state Senate. Just one of the 30 state senators is a woman.

"I am the queen of the Senate. I have my own little tiara," jokes Bernadine Craft, a Democrat who represents the mining town of Rock Springs.

Caroline Ballard

  

Across the United States, women make up just under a quarter of state legislators. In Wyoming, the statistics are even worse – only 13 percent of legislators are women. That makes the “Equality State” 50th in the nation. Part of the problem is no one is asking them to run. 

Bernadine Craft is a state senator from Sweetwater County, and she is the only woman in the state senate. She says that the main reason she is there is because she was asked to run by Senator Rae Lynn Job, who once held the senate seat Craft has now.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Wyoming currently ranks 50th in percentage of women in its Legislature. 

What do you think can be done to better encourage women to run for the state legislature? 

Exercising the constitutional right to vote in Pakistan can sometimes come at a painful price. Fouzia Talib says she has become a social outcast overnight. People are abusing her with such ferocity that she has temporarily left home to seek refuge elsewhere.

With the new movie about the British suffrage movement, Suffragette, scheduled to be released this week, recollections of protest and debate concerning a woman's right to vote in the U.S. are inevitable.

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