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Women's Suffrage and Voting Laws in Wyoming

Women and men that were sympathetic to the cause began to fight for the right of women to vote in the 1840s. Women across the United States marched, protested, and lobbied for a change in the laws that kept them from exercising their right to vote. The women's suffrage main points involved included women's rights to vote, equal access to education and employment, the right for women to control their own money and property, equality within a marriage, and custody of their children. To get what they wanted, women even went so far as to protest to the point of being thrown in jail in order to make their voices heard. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott were two of the front-line suffragists that helped give momentum to the movement.

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Women's Suffrage and Voting Laws in Wyoming - WY Trust & LLC Attorney - Infographic

What is Women's Suffrage?

The women's suffrage meaning and mission is to give women the right to vote in local and national elections. In the United States, it was a decades-long movement that began before the Civil War when many American women were beginning to chafe against the "Cult of True Womanhood" movement, which was the idea that only true women were pious, submissive, and existed solely to be concerned about their home, their husband, and their children. The women's suffrage timeline started there and truly began to pick up momentum in 1848 when a group of abolitionist activists gathered at the Seneca Falls Convention in Seneca Falls, New York to discuss women's rights. This momentum carried the women's suffrage movement through the 1850s but eventually lost steam when the Civil War began. After the war ended, when Constitutional amendments were being passed allowing Black men the right to vote, women's suffrage activists began pushing for universal suffrage.

Women's Suffrage in Wyoming

The women's suffrage movement in Wyoming was different from that of most of the U.S. states. While it was still a territory of the United States, back in 1869, a group of all-male legislators passed a suffrage bill. There were some legislators that voted for this because they truly believed women had a right to vote, while others passed it in hopes of simply bringing more women to the sparsely populated territory of Wyoming. This suffrage bill was challenged by the United States government in their desire to become a state, but Wyoming leaders held strong, and their statehood was granted. Other territories of the time had allowed some women to vote, but those laws only granted the right to women in positions of power within society based on ownership of property or other means. When it came to women's suffrage in Wyoming, all women regardless of status were granted the right to vote.

Important Leaders in the Fight for Women's Suffrage

Anna Elizabeth Dickinson and Redelia Bates both stood up for women and their right to vote by giving speeches in the hub of the Wyoming territory, Cheyenne. Their influence led to the 1870 election seeing more than 1,000 women show up to vote. These voting women most likely changed the outcome of the election by voting in large part Republican. Women went on to change the history of Wyoming, and the nation as a whole, by quickly becoming jurors, and soon the first female justice of the peace, Esther Hobart Morris, was appointed. Ms. Morris, a widow, and abolitionist went on to adjudicate 70 cases, only two of which were overturned. There were many that did not like the effect women's votes were having, and there was an attempt in 1871 to repeal the 1869 law, but it was not able to get quite enough backing, so the law stood. However, in this same year, it was decided by vote that women should not be allowed to serve on jury duty, as many thought it exposed the women to too much and put them in too close proximity to men, which was deemed inappropriate. Many believed women should be sheltered from much of the graphic violence that was exposed while on a jury.

The 19th Amendment Passed

In 1919, the United States federal government voted to pass the 19th amendment which stated, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." This was a decades-long battle finally won by women and men who did not give up and fought diligently for the rights of citizens to vote. This amendment was ratified in 1920 by 36 states. There was still a fight to be had since women of minority status were still not allowed to vote. It was over many more years that people fought long and hard to win the battle that every woman in the United States should be able to vote.