Women's Suffrage in Wyoming
(WSA Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly cover showing women voting in Cheyenne, Wyoming, November 24, 1888)
Suffrage is defined as the right to vote in elections. In 1869, Wyoming became the first state in nation to grant suffrage to women, as well as the rights to hold public office, own and inherit property, and the guardianship of minor children.
The territorial legislature attempted to repeal the act in 1871, but Governor John Campbell vetoed the bill. Woman's suffrage was debated during the constitutional convention and was later incorporated into the state constitution in 1890.
Wyoming Women's Firsts
1st State to Grant Women's Suffrage: In 1869, the first Wyoming Territorial Assembly passed the Women's Suffrage Act granting women the right to vote and hold public office in the state. When Wyoming became a state in 1890, this right was written into Article 8 of the new constitution ensuring universal suffrage.
1st Female Justice of the Peace in the US: Esther Hobart Morris, appointed February 17, 1870 in South Pass City. Her first act after taking office was charge her predecessor for failing to hand over the court's records to her. She dropped the charges due to her conflict of interest as both plaintiff and judge but kept her own docket book during her term.
1st Women to Serve on a Jury in the US: Laramie, sworn in on March 7, 1870.
1st Female Bailiff in the US: Martha Symons Boies Atkinson appointed to see to the needs of the first all-female jury, 1870 in Laramie.
1st Presidential Election in Which Women Voted: 1892, Wyoming was the only state with women's suffrage during that election.
1st Woman Elected to a State-wide Office in Wyoming: Estelle Reel was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1894, the second in the nation following Laura J. Eisenhuth of North Dakota's election in 1892. Reel was the second individual to hold the office in Wyoming.
1st Female Legislator in Wyoming: Mary Godat Bellamy, 1910.
1st Female Mayor in Wyoming: Susan Wissler, Dayton, elected 1911.
1st Town Governed by Women: Dubbed the "petticoat government" by the press, the town of Jackson elected 3 councilwomen, a female town marshal and a female mayor in 1920. Several of the women were reelected during the next election.
1st Female Governor in the US: Nellie Tayloe Ross was elected Governor on November 5, 1924. Although she and Ma Ferguson of Texas were elected on the same day, Ross was inaugurated on January 5, 1925, two weeks before Ferguson, and thus holds the title. Ross' husband, Governor William B. Ross, had passed away suddenly almost exactly one month before she was elected. She did not campaign for herself leading up to the election as she was still in mourning and wore black for much of her term. She ran for re-election in 1926, but narrowly lost to Frank Emerson.
1st Woman Elected to the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Business Council: Irene Kinnear Meade, 1930.
1st Female State Senator: Dora McGrath of Hot Springs County, 1931.
1st Woman Elected to the Northern Arapaho Tribal Business Council: Nellie Scott, 1937.
1st Mixed Jury: Sweetwater County, May 8, 1950. According to Cora Beach’s Women of Wyoming, Volume I, just after the selection of the 1st female jurors in 1870, the lawyers and pundits began to push for a literal reading of the law describing jury qualifications. It had been passed prior to the act granting women’s suffrage and thus specified that the jurors be male. As no one pushed to change the law, the supreme court did not provide a definitive decision nor was the law changed by the legislature until 1949. The first mixed jury in Wyoming, and thus the 1st female jurors in 80 years, sat the next year, on May 8, 1950.
1st Female State Treasurer: Minnie Mitchell, appointed to fill the unexpired term of her husband, J.R. Mitchell, 1953.
1st Female State Auditor: Minnie Mitchell, 1955
1st Woman Appointed to Staff of Attorney General: Ellen Crowley, 1958.
1st Female Wyoming Secretary of State: Thyra Thomson, 1963.
1st Female U.S. Congresswoman to represent Wyoming: Barbara Cubin, 1995.
1st Female Wyoming Supreme Court Justice: Hon. Marilyn Stebner Kite, 2000. Hon. Kite also became the first female Chief Justice in 2010.
1st Judicial District Judged Entirely by Women: Laramie County Circuit Court, 2009. Hon. Denise Nau, Hon. Roberta Coates, Hon. Catherine R. Rogers.
1st Female President of the University of Wyoming: Laurie Nichols, 2015
1st female US Army Infantry NCO: Wyoming National Guard Sgt. Shelby Atkins, 2016