Wyoming and the 19th Amendment

State of Wyoming depicted in purple, white, and gold (colors of the National Woman’s Party suffrage flag) – indicating Wyoming was one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment. Courtesy Megan Springate.
State of Wyoming depicted in purple, white, and gold (colors of the National Woman’s Party suffrage flag) – indicating Wyoming was one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment.

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Women fought for the right to vote since the mid-1800s. They marched, protested, lobbied, and even went to jail. By the 1870s, women pressured Congress to vote on an amendment that would give them suffrage rights. This amendment became known as the 19th Amendment.

After decades of arguments for and against women's suffrage, Congress finally voted in favor of the 19th Amendment in 1919. This is called ratification. After Congress ratified the 19th Amendment, at least 36 states needed to vote in favor of it for it to become law.

On January 27, 1920, Wyoming voted in favor of the 19th Amendment. By August of 1920, 36 states (including Wyoming) ratified the amendment, giving women the right to vote. But did you know that women in Wyoming already had the right to vote? In fact, Wyoming was the first territory or state in our nation's history to grant women the right to vote.

When Wyoming was still a territory, legislators passed the Wyoming Suffrage Act of 1869. This act gave women in the territory the right to vote. Lawmakers had different motives for supporting this act. Some wanted to bring more women to the sparsely populated territory. Others understood that women played an integral role in life on the frontier. As a result, some Wyoming legislators felt women should have a say in how the territory was run.

When the territory became a state in 1890, women were allowed to keep the right to vote.

State flag of Wyoming, CC0
State flag of Wyoming.

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Women in Wyoming

Indigenous people have lived in the Wyoming region for thousands of years. Tribes included the Arapaho, Lakota, Cheyenne, Crow, Shoshone and more. Native American women were often responsible for raising children, farming, and domestic duties. They were also caretakers of their culture in that they passed along oral stories and songs.

In the 1800s, settlers of European descendant pushed Indigenous people out of the region and the US government forced many onto reservations. Many women living in the eastern United States undertook the perilous journey westward. They often worked alongside men to build houses, cultivate fields, and create communities.

After the state government recognized women’s right to vote in 1869, women in Wyoming ran for public offices. In 1870, for example, Esther Hobart Morris was elected the first female Justice of the Peace. Women in Wyoming also sat on juries. By 1925, Wyoming elected the first woman governor in the United States.