Suffrage in 60 Seconds: How Women Won the West

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Woman suffrage was old news in the Old West by the time the 19th Amendment was ratified.

Some historians argue that the nature of the frontier led to women getting their hands dirty in labor and in politics earlier than their eastern counterparts.

But it's complicated.

The first suffrage bill was put forward in post-bellum Wyoming by William Bright who was so opposed to the 14th Amendment, he wanted to guarantee that if Black men could vote, white women could, too. African-American, Chinese, and Latinx communities fought for suffrage in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and California.

In Utah, women led by Eliza Snow formed philanthropic societies and successfully lobbied for suffrage by 1870, but Congress stripped away that right in 1887 when it passed the Edmonds-Tucker Act in an effort to curb the practice of polygamy.

The Washington Territory Supreme Court revoked the right to vote when the liquor industry, worried that votes for women meant prohibition, successfully convinced the court to take their rights away. Fed up Washington suffragists led by Cora Smith Eaton marched up to the summit of Mount Rainier carrying a Votes for Women banner in tow. Their publicity stunt was the talk of the nation. Soon Washington granted full suffrage and other states caved as suffrage swept the West.

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1 minute, 48 seconds

Women in the western states and territories won the first victories in the fight for woman suffrage. But there were difficult battles marked by reversals, defeats, and questionable alliances. Ranger Kait shares some of the stories. Who are the trailblazers who have paved the way for you?

There are more stories about the fight for the vote in the essay "Woman Suffrage in the West" by Jennifer Helton

Part of a series of articles titled Suffrage in Sixty Seconds.

Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument, Mount Rainier National Park, National Mall and Memorial Parks, Women's Rights National Historical Park

Last updated: September 1, 2020