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  1. A Timeline of Women's Achievements in Wyoming

A Timeline of Women's Achievements in Wyoming

Wyoming is called the Equality State because it has led the way on issues of human rights, democracy, and women's suffrage. In fact, Wyoming was the first state that permitted all women to have the right to vote, regardless of their social or economic status, a move that happened decades before the 19th Amendment granted the same right federally. When Wyoming became a state, one of its first actions was to give women the right to vote and to hold public office. That's why so many early female leaders elected to public office in the United States came from Wyoming.

1869: William Bright, president of the Council of the Wyoming Territorial Legislature, introduced a bill that would recognize every woman's right to vote once they reached the age of 21. This bill passed easily and was signed into law by the governor.

1869: William Bright, president of the Council of the Wyoming Territorial Legislature, introduced a bill that would recognize every woman's right to vote once they reached the age of 21. This bill passed easily and was signed into law by the governor.

1870: Three months after women were given the right to vote and hold office in Wyoming, six women were called to serve on a grand jury in Laramie, Wyoming: Amelia Hatcher, Jane Hilton, Mary Mackle, Annie Monehan, Sarah Pease, and Eliza Stewart. It was the first time in world history that women were allowed to serve on a formal jury.

1870: Esther Hobart Morris was appointed as the justice of the peace in South Pass City, Wyoming, the first woman to serve as a justice of the peace in the United States.

1895: Estelle Reel, a teacher in Cheyenne, Wyoming, became the first woman in the state to be elected to hold a statewide office when she won the job of of state superintendent of public instruction. Three years later, she was appointed as the national Superintendent of Indian Schools by President William McKinley, becoming the first woman to fill a federal appointment requiring Senate approval.

1910: Mary Godat Bellamy became the first woman elected to the Wyoming Legislature, where she served a two-year term. During her term, she advocated for the creation of industrial education programs and changes to the treatment of women and children who were incarcerated in Wyoming institutions.

1924: After the death of her husband, Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first female governor of Wyoming. She was also the first woman in the United States to serve as governor of any state. While she was governor, she proposed legislation to require school boards and local governments to publish their spending plan before levying new taxes, fought for tax relief for farmers, and supported legislation aimed at preventing bank failures. She would later go on to be appointed as director of the U.S. Mint, a job she held for ten years.

1980: Harriet Elizabeth Byrd ran for state representative and won, becoming the first African American woman to serve in the Wyoming House, where she served for eight years. Then, she became the first woman elected to the Wyoming Senate, winning a four-year term in 1988. During her time in government, she fought to make Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a paid holiday, worked on legislation to set aside parking spaces for disabled people, and pushed for the enforcement of laws regarding the use of child safety seats.

1994: Nimi McConigley became the first Indian American woman to be elected to the Wyoming House, and in doing so, she also became the first Indian-born person to serve in any American state government. She later went on to become the first woman of color in the United States to run a TV news station.

2000: Marilyn Kite became the first woman to be appointed as a Wyoming Supreme Court justice, a position she held for 15 years. During her tenure, she authored more than 500 opinions and took an active role in creating an Access to Justice Commission to help give court security adequate funding.

2010: Nancy Freudenthal became the first female federal judge in Wyoming history. She was confirmed in this position while her husband was serving as governor; he nominated her as one of his top three picks for the position without telling her, and she was interviewed by Justice Department lawyers before President Barack Obama formally submitted her as a nominee to fill the vacant seat. Her appointment was confirmed with a 96-1 vote. Freudenthal would serve as chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming from 2011 until 2018, when she stepped down from that role while remaining on the court.

2017: Affie Ellis was elected in a landslide victory as the first Navajo and Native American person to serve in the Wyoming Senate.

2018: Kari Gray joined the Wyoming Supreme Court, giving the court its first female-majority bench. Of the five justices, three of them are women: Chief Justice Kate M. Fox, Justice Kari Gray, and Justice Lynne Boomgaarden.

2019: Andi LeBeau became the first Northern Arapaho woman to be elected to the Wyoming Legislature. She'd run in 2014 and won the Democratic primary but narrowly lost the general election, but she ran again in 2018 and challenged the same opponent again, this time winning with 51% of the vote.