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Archives on the Air 307: Historic Vote – Louisa A. Swain Papers

Louisa Ann Swain was nearly seventy years old when she cast her vote in 1870. Her ballot was noteworthy as she was the first woman in the United States to be allowed to vote in a general election.

The previous year, the Wyoming Territorial Legislature had written female suffrage into the constitution. Women aged 21 and older were able to vote, serve on juries and hold public office. It was a radical idea at the time. It would be another fifty years before universal suffrage would pass in the U.S..

Swain voted in Laramie on September 6th, 1870. The circumstances that led to her distinction as the first voter that day are a bit murky. Some said that she was nominated to cast the first vote by virtue of her age. Other said she was simply out early on a trip to the bakery when she passed the polling place. Either way, she made history.

See Louisa Ann Swain’s papers at UW’s American Heritage Center to learn more about her historic vote.