|Wyoming the First Equal Suffrage State—Text of the Bill—The Men Who Dared—New State Progressive—Legislative History of the Act—House Proceedings—Racy Debate—The Bill in the Council—Amended in the House—Approved by the Governor—Newspaper Comment—The Country Surprised—Attempt to Repeal—Its Acknowledged Success—The First Woman Jury—The First Woman Justice of the Peace—Suffrage in the Constitutional Convention—Notes and Comments—Bill Nye's Humorous Report ... 197|
| Wyoming enjoys the unique distinction of being the first territory and state to give women the full and unqualified right of suffrage, including the right to hold office. In the "wild and woolly' west, the territorial republic of Wyoming in the first session of its legislature in December. 1869. enacted a law, which was approved by the governor, and which reads as follows:|
"Every woman of the age of twenty-one years residing in this territory, may. at every election, cast her vote; and her right to the elective franchise and to hold office under the election laws of the territory shall be the same as those of electors."
Thus from our primeval mountains and plains was fired the first shot for equal suffrage "that was heard around the world."
|THE MEN WHO DARED|
| When the brave pioneers and empire builders of the territory startled the country with this enactment, Wyoming had less than 9,000 inhabitants. It was a scene of "magnificent distances" between human habitations, with broad plains, high mountains and great forests intervening. Bands of hostile Indians roamed over much of the territory. The buffalo ranged at will, and thousands of antelope were at home on the plains and foothills, while in the mountains, immense herds of elk were everywhere grazing, as near neighbors of the big horn, the mountain lion and the bear.|
The adventurers and desperadoes that floated in with the incoming settlers had nothing to do with making laws. They were transients and pilgrims. The real, bona fide first settlers of Wyoming were men of sterling character, of broad vision and undoubted courage. They were largely made up from the young veterans of the South who fought under Lee and Jackson, or those whose mettle had been proved in battles under Grant and Sherman. They had learned by thrilling experiences the lessons of liberty and equality. They were unafraid.
|NEW STATE PROGRESSIVE|
| It seems to be the destiny of new states to work out the problems of a progressive civilization. The fathers who made the American Constitution, which has been called "the greatest human document," were pioneers and frontiersmen, nurtured by forest and stream and mountain, sons of nature, and therefore sons of liberty. This enactment, therefore, was not the result of an idle fancy, nor as has sometimes been asserted, "a joke." or a bid for notoriety. Every step in its passage through the Legislature shows the grim determination of its supporters, no matter how much ridicule nor how many quips were thrown at it by its opponents.|
It was the serious and conscientious expression of a body of men who were animated by sentiments of lofty respect and admiration for women, and who believed that as a measure of common justice they should be granted the same rights and privileges that were given to men. This is amply proven by other enactments presented and passed by the same Legislature, as, for example. "An act to protect women in their property rights"; a provision inserted in the bill establishing a school system, that "Women school teachers should receive the same pay as men for the same service," and a resolution "That the sergeant at arms be required to assign seats within the bar of the house to ladies who wished to attend the deliberations of this body." Nobody thought there was anything jocose or sensational about these propositions, although they represent a sentiment half a century in advance of the old states at that time.
|ITS LEGISLATIVE HISTORY|
| The proceedings of the first Legislature of Wyoming Territory will always be interesting to the student of history and the advocates of equal suffrage. The session began October 12 and ended December 11. 1869.|
In looking over the house journal, one will find in the proceedings a moving picture the wants and conditions of a frontier people. For instance, a bill was introduced to build a road south from Sherman to the North Park gold mines, and a road north from the Town of Wyoming to the Last Chance gold mines. This shows they had a vision of the need of good roads even in those primitive days. There were frequent references in bills to Indian raids in the Wind River Valley and South Pass. A memorial to Congress was passed asking the removal of the headquarters of the military department from Omaha to Fort Russell. These propositions are all evidence of the enterprise, public spirit and farseeing statesmanship of the noble band of territorial legislators who blazed the way for woman's suffrage on this continent.
The organic act creating Wyoming Territory was passed by Congress and approved July 25. 1868. The first governor and secretary were appointed and qualified April 15. 1869, and on May 19. 1869. the judicial officers reported for duty, thus completing the territorial organization. An election was soon ordered, resuhins in the organization of the Legislature on October 12, 1869.
|The governor was John A. Campbell; the secretary, Edward M. Lee; United States attorney, Joseph M. Carey; United States marshal. Church Howe; and the delegate to Congress was Stephen F. Xuckolls. The names of the legislators were as follows:|
Council–Fred Laycock and J. W. Brady of Albany County; W. H. Bright and G. W. Wardman of Carter County; J. R. Whitehead, T. D. Murrin and T. W. Poole of Laramie County; George Wilson of Carbon County; and William E. Darby at large. Nine members. W. H. Bright, president.
House–J. C. Abney, Posey S. Wilson, Howard Sebree and Herman Haas of Laramie County; William Herrick, J. N. Douglas and Louis Miller of Albany County; James W. Menefee, Ben Sheeks and John Holbrook of Carter County; S. M. Curran and J. M. Freeman of Carbon County; J. C. Strong at large. Thirteen members. S. M. Curran, speaker.
The woman's suffrage bill was introduced November 27th. by W. H. Bright, president of the council, and was passed in that body and sent to the house November 30, 1869. The text of the bill, being Council Bill No. 70, was as follows:
"Every woman of the age of eighteen years residing in this territory, mav, at every election cast her vote; and her right to the elective franchise and to hold office under the election laws of the territory shall be the same as those ot electors."
Section 2 provided that "this act shall take effect from and after its passage."
|PROCEEDINGS IN THE HOUSE|
| When the bill reached the house, November 30th, it was taken up and read the first time, and on motion of Ben Sheeks the rules were suspended and the bill read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole house and made a special order for 7 o'clock that evening. This action was rushing the measure beyond ordinary precedent. At the evening session, Mr. Douglas moved that the house reconsider its action on Council Bill No. 70, "an act granting the right of suffrage to the women of Wyoming Territory," made special order for this hour, and that it be referred to a special committee. This was carried and the speaker named Messrs. Douglas, Menefee and Abney as such special committee. On December 4th this committee made the following report:|
"Your special committee to whom was referred Council Bill No. 70, 'An act to give the women of Wyoming the right of suffrage,' have had the same under consideration and report it back to the house recommending its passage."
"J. W. D0UGLA.S, Chairman."
This report having the unanimous support of the committee, it will be seen between the lines that all its supporters were in earnest in favoring the bill and they used the best parliamentary strategy in taking it safely through its different stages, and especially in having it referred to a favorable committee. When the report of the committee was taken up the same day, Mr. Sheeks moved to postpone the consideration of the bill indefinitely. This was lost, and on motion of Mr. Douglas the bill was made special order for 7 o'clock P. M. At the evening session, on motion of Mr. Strong, the house resolved itself into a committee of the whole for consideration of the bill. Mr. Douglas, a warm supporter of the bill, was called to the chair. After a free and lively discussion of the measure, the committee rose and made the following report:
"Mr. Speaker, the committee of the whole have had Council Liill No. 70, a bill for 'An act to Grant the Women of Wyoming the Right of Suffrage,' under consideration and report the same back to the house."
J. W. Douglas, Chairman.
Mr. Wilson moved that the report be received. Lost.
Mr. Sheeks moved to adjourn. Lost.
Mr. Strong moved to reconsider the vote on the reception of the report of the committee of the whole on Council Bill No. 70. Lost.
Mr. Strong appealed from the decision of the chair. Appeal not sustained.
The house then proceeded to consider other business and left the committee's report hanging in mid-air. It was neither accepted nor rejected–a peculiar parliamentary situation.
|THE RACY DEBATE|
| The bill next came before the house on December 6th, when the final struggle for its passage was made. The speaker called Mr. Sebree to the chair. On motion of Mr. Strong a call of the house was had and absentees sent for. They were all brought in but two, Freeman and Haas. Sheeks moved to take a recess. Lost. From this time on, all kinds of dilatory, obstructive and ridiculous motions were made by the opposition and were promptly voted down. Curran moved, that consideration of the bill be postponed until July 4, 1870. Lost. Sheeks moved to postpone action on the bill until Saturday next. (That time was after the Legislature had adjourned.) Lost. Curran moved to insert in section 2, the words, "Three years or sooner discharged." Lost. Sheeks offered an amendment to insert the words, "all colored women and squaws" in section 2. On motion of Aliller, Sheeks' amendment was laid on the table. Air. Strong offered an amendment to strike out the word "women' and insert in lieu thereof the word "Ladies." This was laid on the table. On motion of Mr. Sheeks the word "eighteen" was stricken out and the words "twenty-one" inserted instead. On motion of Air. Nelson the rules were suspended, the bill read a third time by title , and put upon its passage. A vote was then taken on the bill which passed as follows:|
Ayes–Messrs. Abney, Douglas, Herrick, Aliller, Alenefee, Sebree and Wilson–7
Nays–Messrs. Holbrook, Sheeks, Strong and Speaker Curran–4.
In order to clinch the passage of the bill and prevent any further filibustering. Air. Wilson moved a reconsideration of the action taken. This being lost, prevented any other member from making such a motion.
|THE BILL IN THE COUNCIL.|
| Judging from the Journal very little debate occurred on the suft'rage bill in the Council. The measure had a majority from the first and at no time did the opposition develop any fighting propensity or attempt parliamentary obstructions. The fact that William H. Bright. President of the Council, introduced the measure may account in part for the courtesy with which its opponents treated it, at different stages of the proceedings, from its introduction to its final passage.|
Mr. Bright gave notice on November 12, 1869, that he would "introduce a bill for "Woman's Rights' on Monday, or some subsequent day." The bill however, did not appear until November 27th at the opening of the morning session when Mr. Bright is recorded as introducing a bill, "For an Act giving to the Women of Wyoming the Right of Suffrage."
It was then read for the first and second time and referred to the Committee of the Whole. During the forenoon of that day the committee held a session and reported the bill back to the Council with the recommendation that it be passed. It was filed on the calendar as Bill No. 70. and three days later, on November 30th. it was read the third time and put upon its final passage, and was passed by the following vote:
Yeas–Brady. Laycock, Murrin. Poole, Wilson and Mr. President–6.
Nays–Rockwell and Whitehead–
|AMENDED IN THE HOUSE|
| The bill was then sent to the House. On the morning session of December 6, 1869, the Council was notified by a message from the chief clerk of the House, that the House had passed Council Bill No. 70, "An Act to Grant to the Women of Wyoming Territory the Right of Suffrage" with the following amendment: section 1, second line. Strike out the word 'Eighteen' and insert the words 'Twenty-one.' The amendment was agreed to by the Council by a vote of six to three|
Thus the bill had a serene and uneventful journey through the Council. Its passage was the result of the serious, intelligent judgment of that body and the record shows there were no factions or trifling parliamentary tactics used to oppose it.
|APPROVED BY THE GOVERNOR|
| On December 10th, one day before the adjournment of the Legislature the following message was received by the Council,|
"Executive Department. W. T.,
"Cheyenne, December 10, 1869.
"To the Honorable President of the Council,
"I have the honor to inform the Council that I have approved "An act to grant to the Women of Wyoming Territory the right of Suffrage and to hold office."
"Your obedient servant,
"J. A. Campbell.
| On the day following the original passage of the act in 1809 the Cheyenne Leader commented editorially as follows:|
"Governor Campbell yesterday approved the Female Suffrage Bill, thus making it a law of the territory. We now expect at once quite an immigration of ladies to Wyoming. We say to them, Come on! There is room for a great many here yet. When Wyoming gets tired of such additions we'll agree to let the outside world know the fact. Won't the irrepressible Anna D. (Dickinson) come out here and make her home? We'll even give her more than the right to vote— she can run for Congress."
|ATTEMPT TO REPEAL|
|The legislative history of this act would not be complete without noting the fact that an attempt was made to repeal the law at the next session of the Legislature, two years later, when curiously enough the alignment of the two parties was reversed on the proposition. It was originally passed by a legislature unanimously democratic. In the session of 1871, the bill to repeal the act was supported by democrats and opposed by republicans. It was passed by both houses and sent to the governor who vetoed it in a cogent and lengthy message, in which he argued that a repeal would advertise to the world that the women of Wyoming in their use of the franchise had not justified its passage. This, he declared was an entirely false imputation. He said the argument that, the ability to perform 'military service was essential, could not be sustained, as a large part of male voters were exempt from such service: that the law already passed permitting women to acquire and possess property and be taxed, should give her a voice in the public management of her property; that she should have a voice in the management of our public schools where her children were educated; that the act was in harmony with the legislation already passed, in relation to the property rights of women and the law agiiiiist any discrimination in pay of teachers on account of sex.|
|SURPRISED THE COUNTRY|
| Outside of Cheyenne, throughout the territory there seems to have been no agitation and not much discussion in regard to equal suffrage, and there was little, if any, expectation that such a measure would be passed by the Legislature. It has been said "It is the unexpected that happens," and it so proved in this far-reaching act which blazed the way for the woman suffrage campaigns that were waged in every state for the next half a century.|
The passage of the act, however, created a decided sensation throughout the United States, and brought out all kinds of comments "from grave to gay and from lively to severe." The old states were astonished that the newest and smallest territorial sovereignty should have the boldness and audacity to break down the walls of exclusiveness and conventionalism and march forth into the open of freedom and equal rights. It was hailed with delight by true reformers and thoughtful progressives in the dift'erent political parties.
In other countries this legislation did not seem so revolutionary or radical, for women have enjoyed partial suffrage in many lands. In Canada they may vote for municipal officers and they have that privilege in other colonies of Great Britain. In France women teachers may vote for members of the boards of education. In Russia, women who are heads of households may vote by proxy at village and municipal elections. In Sweden they have municipal suffrage. In some states women property holders may vote on questions pertaining to assessments of taxes.
|THE ADVANCING WAVE|
|The Wyoming idea, put into practical operation in i86g. is now, like an advancing wave submerging the governments of the world. When states like New York adopt woman suffrage, the nationalization of the reform will soon be inevitable. England will no doubt soon reward the splendid work and noble sacrifices of her women in the present world war, by investing them with full suffrage rights. When we look back to the act of Wyoming's pioneers, we think, "How far yon little candle throws its beams."|
| The writer was a visitor at his old, colonial home in Massachusetts in 1915 when the question of woman suffrage was at issue. Being requested to present Wyoming's view and experiences, he said in part:|
"There is an old saying. 'Proof of the pudding is in the eating.' Wyoming has had woman suffrage for nearly half a century. Surely that is long enough time to test its practical results, as to the individual citizen, the family, the home and public affairs. Our experience therefore is more important than any hypothetical arguments or conjectures that the opponents of equal suffrage may present.
"A recent canvass of press opinions throughout the country made by the Literary Digest, shows that every one of the twenty-six editors queried in Wyoming, declared in favor of full female suffrage. It must certainly be admitted that this is an expression of intelligent men versed in public affairs and governmental policies, and we may add. in the consensus of public opinion, the masses of the people of Wyoming are practically unanimous on this subject.
"If it be said that Wyoming is a wild west state of cowboys, sheep herders and range riders, I answer that the census will show we stand in the front rank of states in general education, and we are among the few states of the Union that have an intelligence qualification in granting suffrage. Under our constitution every voter must be able to read the state constitution in English, consequently we can have no illiterate vote.
"Wyoming is also at the front in humane legislation. Kind treatment to animals is required to be taught in the public schools. Our code of humane laws is far in advance of the old states in their scope and efficiency, as our Humane Bureau is a state institution, maintained by the state appropriation and its work is supported by the legal authorities of every town and county.
"As a descendant of one of the oldest Colonial families of New England I wish you to note this fact, our 'wild west' is really the product of the East–Wyoming is more American than Massachusetts, Cheyenne is more American than Amesbury. Our state is largely made up of people from the Eastern and Southern states. Very few were born here. We have been translated from the narrow-confines of New England to a region of grand possibilities–to the vast plains and lofty mountains, the brilliant sunshine and exhilarating ozone of a new land. We are empire builders, both men and women, and without boasting, I may say we have a broader vision and more progressive ideas than those people of Massachusetts who still persist in traveling in the old ruts.
"We are in the general uplift, socially, physically and governmentally. It is the destiny of the new states to work out the newest problems of a progressive cvilization, and we have already solved the problem of equal suffrage, in a most quiet and effective manner, and we know it to be not only a privilege, but a right for our women to participate in. our government, and so far its effect has been only beneficial in every way, morally, socially and politically. Going to the polls once a year does not make a woman less motherly, less gentle or less refined. In all the state of Wyoming we have not heard of a single home being broken up by women voting, or a single divorce being caused by a difference of political opinions. There have been no revolutionary, startling or spectacular effects from woman's voting, such as have been conjured up in the wild and excited imaginations of its opponents."
|THE FIRST WOMAN JURY|
| The act granting suffrage to women also included the right to hold office. In the month of March, 1870, somebody in Laramie, a frontier town, fifty miles west of Cheyenne, on the Union Pacific Railroad, suggested the idea that women should serve as jurors. Laramie had a population then of about 2,000, made up largely of adventurers, camp followers, and with what is termed the "tough" element in practical control. The better class of settlers who came there to stay and grow up with the country, found it difficult to maintain law and order. The courts were not effective, juries could not or dared not convict the worst offenders. It was reasoned that if women were put on the juries it could not be any worse and might result in improving conditions. The whole arrangement seems to have been agreed to by court officials of the first court convening soon after the passage of the act, the term commencing in March, 1870.|
The names of the jurors at that time were not drawn, but were selected by court officers and personally summoned by the sheriff. Both the grand and petit juries of that court contained the names of women.
|WOMEN ON THE GRAND JURY|
| The grand jury was first called with the names of the following women: Miss Elisa Stewart, school teacher; Mrs. Amelia Hatcher, a widow; Mrs. G. F. Hilton, wife of a physician; Mrs. Mary Mackell, wife of a clerk at Fort Sanders; Mrs. Agnes Baker, wife of a merchant; Mrs. Sarah W. Pease, wife of the deputy clerk of court. Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard in her admirable story of the "First Woman Jury" appearing in the Journal of American History in 1913, says:|
"When this jury had been empaneled, sworn and charged, the excitement in Laramie was intense, and the material facts, together with the judge's charge were telegraphed all over the world by the associated press reporters who watched every step of the novel scene with intense interest."
At the opening of the court, the jury being in their seats, the judge addressed them as "ladies and gentlemen of the grand jury." He assured them there was no impropriety or illegality in women serving as jurors and that they would receive the full consideration and protection of the court. As the judge finished, Stephen W. Downey, prosecuting attorney, arose and moved to quash the jury panel on the ground that said panel was not composed of "male citizens" as required by law. The court overruled this motion. Associate Justice Kingman concurring. In fact the written opinion of Chief Justice Howe had been given to Mr. Downey previous to the assembling of the court. This grand jury was in session three weeks and investigated many cases including murders, cattle stealing, illegal branding, etc. Whenever a true bill was returned it commenced with these words, "We, good and lawful male and female jurors, on oath do say."
The petit jury, empaneled after the grand jury, consisted of six women and six men. The women were: Mrs. Retta J. Burnham, wife of a contractor; Miss Nellie Hazen, a school teacher; Miss Lizzie A. Spooner, sister of a hotel keeper; Mrs. Mary Wilcox, wife of a merchant; Mrs. J. H. Hayford, wife of an editor; Mrs. J. N. Hartsough. wife of the Methodist minister. A woman bailiff, Mrs. Mary Boies, was appointed to attend to this jury, being the first woman bailiff known to American history. The first case was a murder trial, and as no decision was reached before night, the jury was taken to the Union Pacific Hotel and two rooms engaged, one for the men and one for the women, a man bailiff being on duty as guard of the men. As an incident of their deliberations, the minister's wife asked the jurors to kneel down with her in prayer "that they might ask the aid of the Great Court above in arriving at a just decision."
After several ballots in the murder case with varying results the jury finally agreed on a verdict of manslaughter. During the term many civil and criminal cases were tried, and when it was over, the universal opinion of lawyers and all good citizens, was, that the women showed ability, good sense and practical judgment in their decisions and that the ends of justice were attained.
Mrs. Sarah W. Pease, one of the grand jurors, wrote an interesting account of their jury experiences in the Wyoming Historial Collections of 1897. Of the publicity they enjoyed or suffered, she says:
"The news was wired far and near, and every paper in the country made favorable or unfavorable comment, usually the latter. In due time letters and telegrams of inquiry came pouring in. Newspaper correspondents came flocking to the town from all parts of the country, as well as special artists from leading illustrated periodicals. We were constantly importuned to sit for our pictures in a body, but we steadfastly refused, although great pressure was brought to bear by court officials. The jury was obliged to go to the court room once each day and I remember we went closely veiled fearing that special artists would make hasty sketches of us. Of course we were caricatured in the most hideous manner. Some of us were represented as holding babies in our laps, and a threadbare couplet appeared in many newspapers and still has a place in the guide books,
'Baby, baby, don't get in a fury,
Your mamma's gone to sit on the jury.' "
One woman, she says gave them much irritation because she persisted in knitting while in the jury box. Red Cross work was not then the vogue. During three successive terms women were called to serve on juries. When Judge Howe resigned, however, the practice was discontinued by his successor who interpreted the law to apply only to "male citizens."
|THE FIRST WOMAN JUSTICE|
| Mrs. Esther Morris was one of the earliest and most noted of "Wyoming's pioneer women. She came from Illinois to Wyoming in 1869 and joined her husband and three sons at South Pass, then a populous gold mining settlement. W. H. Bright, the author of the bill giving equal suffrage to women, was a resident of that camp, and as Mrs. Morris was a warm advocate of woman's rights, it is thought she may have influenced Mr. Bright in proposing the measure. There is no evidence to show that she had anything to do with the passage of the bill, but shortly after the Legislature adjourned she was appointed justice of the peace by Edwin M. Lee, acting governor of the territory, and filled the position with great credit to herself and to the satisfaction of the people of South Pass. She held court in a lively mining camp and was obliged to hear and decide many exciting and difficult cases, but in no case were her judgments and decisions overruled. When her term was finished The South Pass News of December 12, 1870, made the following comment:|
"Mrs. Justice Esther Morris retires from her judicial duties today. She has filled the position with great credit to herself and secured the good opinion of all with whom she transacted any official business."
An article in the Chicago Tribune of June 17, 1895, referring to her selection as one of the delegates to the Republican National Convention held at Cleveland, Ohio, says: "Her career is in some respects remarkable, especially as one of the early pioneers of Illinois and Wyoming. * * * Few women of any period have been endowed with greater gifts than Esther Morris. Her originality, wit and rare powers of conversation would have given her a conspicuous position in any society."
Mrs. Morris was a woman of great force of character, natural ability and independent convictions. In her girlhood days in Illinois she was an ardent anti-slavery worker. Her closing years were spent at Cheyenne with her son, Hon. Robert M. Morris, author of Wyoming Historical Collections. She died in April, 1902, at the age of 90 years, having spent a serene, old age with "honor, love, obedience and troops of friends."
|FOR UNITED STATES SENATOR|
|Although at a later date, the fact should be mentioned in this connection that Wyoming made the first nomination for United States Senator by legislative caucus, that was ever made in this country. This honor fell to Mrs. I. .S. Bartlett. whose interesting biography appears in another part of this history. She was the unanimous choice of the people's party representatives of the legislative session of 1893, when a deadlock prevented the election of any senator, but Mrs. Bartlett was so much admired and respected by all parties that she was elected to the position of chief enrolling clerk of the same legislature.|
|IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION|
| The question of woman suffrage had an important place in the constitutional convention which convened at Cheyenne, September 2, 1889, for the purpose of forming a constitution to be submitted to Congress. The constitution as then framed, under the head of suffrage, included this provision;|
Sec. 1. The right of the citizens of the State of Wyoming to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex. Both male and female citizens of this state shall equally enjoy all civil, political and religious rights and privileges."
The question of submitting this as a separate proposition to be voted upon gave rise to a very interesting debate in the convention and very able speeches were made by George W. Baxter, A. C. Campbell, M. C. Brown, Henry A. Coffeen, John W. Hoyt, Charles H. Burrit, C. W. Holden and A. B. Conaway. The proposition for a separate submission of this clause was based on the idea that Congress might refuse to admit the state with such a provision and it might thus cause the rejecting of statehood. Such a radical and far reaching proposition had never been put up to Congress and the desire for statehood was so strong and insistent that a few were willing to surrender their convictions on suffrage in order to achieve a sure admission.
In the end, however, the convention overwhelmingly voted down the separation of the question and incorporated woman suffrage as a part of the constitution, regardless of whether Congress liked it, or not. As one speaker said in the debate : "Rather than surrender that right we will remain in a territorial condition through the endless cycles of time."
However, their fears were soon dispelled. Through the able and untiring efforts of our representative in Congress, Judge J. M. Carey, assisted by some of the ablest members of the house and senate the admission bill was passed and signed by the President on July 10, 1890.
|NOTES AND COMMENTS|
| Col. W. H. Bright, who was president of the territorial council when he introduced the woman suffrage bill, came to Wyoming from Washington, D. C, his paternal home. He was a man of intelligence, broad minded, and independent in his convictions. Mr. Bright was a democrat and he reasoned that if ignorant negroes were allowed to vote, women were certainly entitled to the privilege. Before the adjournment of the session, the Council unanimously passed the following resolution commending his service as their presiding officer:|
"Resolved, That the Council does hereby recognize in Honorable W. H. Bright, our president, an able, efficient and unpartial officer, and that the thanks of the members of this Council are hereby extended to that gentleman, for the ability and impartiality with which he has presided over the deliberations of this session."
The first woman who voted in Wyoming according to Miss Hebard's interesting account in the Journal of American History, was Mrs. Eliza A. Swain, a lady seventy years of age, living in Laramie. The election was on September 6, 1870.
"Putting on a clean, fresh apron, she walked to the polls early in the morning carrying a little bucket for yeast to be bought at the baker's shop on her return home." She put in her vote and went about her business as if it was a natural part of her domestic duties. Her picture is given in Miss Hebard's article.
Some of the highest offices in the state have been held by women, such as members of legislatures, state superintendents of public instruction, county superintendents of schools, county treasurers and clerks, trustees of the State University, judges of elections, delegates to state and national conventions, etc.
When Governor Warren set the date for holding the Constitutional Convention preparatory to statehood, a convention of the women of the territory was held at Cheyenne to demonstrate their interest in the government of the state and insist on the preservation of their right of suffrage. This convention was unanimous and enthusiastic. Mrs. Amelia Post was elected chairman and a committee on resolutions was appointed consisting of Mrs. Hale, widow of the late governor, Mrs. Morgan, wife of the territorial secretary and Grace Raymond Hebard. The views expressed in the resolutions were practically adopted by the men.
|BILL NYE'S HUMOROUS REPORT|
| The story of the adoption of woman suffrage in Wyoming would not be complete without giving. Bill Xye's version of the legislative discussion of the question. In answer to a question from a well known editor of South Dakota as to what he knew of the legislative proceedings on the bill. Nye reproduces some imaginary speeches made during its discussion in the legislature. Mr. Bigsby, a railroad man, he reports as making the following speech:|
"Gentlemen, this is a pretty important move. It's a kind of wild train on a single track, and we've got to keep our eye peeled or we'll get into the ditch. It's a new conductor making his first run. He don't know the stations yet, and he feels as if there were a spotter in every coach besides. Female suffrage changes the management of the whole line, and may put the entire outfit in the hands of a receiver in two years. We can't tell when Wyoming Territory may be side-tracked with a lot of female conductors and superintendents and a posse of giddy girls at the brakes.
"I tell you we want to consider this pretty thorough. Of course, we members get our time check at the close of the term, and we don't care much, but if the young territory gets into a hot box, or civilization has to wait a few years because we get a flat wheel, and thus block the track, or if by our foolishness we telescope some other territory, folks will point us out and say. 'there's where the difficulty is.' We sent a choice aggregation of railroad men and miners and cattle men down there to Cheyenne, thinking we had a carload of statesmen for to work up this thing, and here we are without airy law or airy gospel that we can lay our jaw to in the whole domain. However. Mr. Speaker. I claim that I've got my orders and I shall pull out in favor of the move. If you boys will couple onto our train, I am moderately certain that we will make no mistake. I regard it as a promotion when I go from the cattle train of male ward politics to take charge of a train with a parlor car and ladies belonging to the manifest." (Applause.)
The next speech was made by Unusual Barries, owner of Bar G brand horse ranch and the crop mottle and key Q monkey-wrench brand cattle ranch on the Upper Chugwater. He said: "Mr. Chairman, or Speaker, or whatever you call yourself, I can cut out a steer or put my red-hot monogram on a maverick the darkest night that ever blew, but I'm poorly put up to paralyze the eager throng with matchless eloquence. I tell you, talk is inexpensive, anyhow. It is rum and hired help that costs money. I agree with the chair that we want to be familiar with the range before we stampede and go wild like a lot of Texas cattle just off the trail, traveling lOO miles a day and filling their pelts with pizen weed and other peculiar vegetables. We want to consider what we're about and act with some judgment. When we turn this maverick over to the governor to be branded, we want to know that we are corralling the right animal. You can't lariat a broncho mule with a morning glory vine. Most always, and after we've run this bill into the chute and twisted its tail a few times, we might want to pay two or three good men to help us let loose of it. However, I shall vote for it as it is, and take the chances. Passing a bill is like buying a brand of cattle on the range, anyhow. You may tally ahead, and you may get everlastingly left with a little withered bunch of Texas frames that there ain't no more hopes of fattening than there would be of putting flesh on a railroad bridge."
The Legislature now took a recess, and after a little quiet talk at Col. Luke Murrin's place, reassembled to listen to a brief speech by Buck Bramel, a prospector, who discovered the Pauper's Dream gold mine. Buck said: "Mr. Cheers-man, I don't know what kind of a fist the women will make of politics, but I'm prepared to invest with surface indications. The law may develop a true fissure vein of prosperity and progress, or a heart-breaking slide of the mountain. We cannot tell till we go down on it. All we can do is to prospect around and drift and develop and comply with the L'uited States laws in such cases made and provided. Then two years more will show whether we've got 'mineral in place' or not. If it works, all right, the next shift that comes to the legislature can drift and stope and stump and timber the blamed measure so as to make a good investment of it for future history. We don't expect to declare a dividend the first year. It'll take time to show what there is in it. My opinion is that women can give this territory a boom that will make her the bonanza of all creation.
"We've got mighty pretty blossom rock already in the intelligence and brains of our women; let us be the means of her advancement and thus shame the old and mossy civilization of other lands. Thus in time we may be able to send missionaries to Xew England. I cannot think of anything more enjoyable than that would be. I was in California years ago. up in the hills, looking for a place, and I ran into a camp in a gulch there, where the soft foot-fall of women had never mashed the violet or squoze the fragrance from the wild columbine. At first the boys thought it was real nice. Everything was so quiet and life was like a dream. Men wore their whiskers flowing, with burdock burrs in them. They got down at the heel. They got so depraved that they neglected their manicure sets for days at a time and killed each other thoughtlessly at times. They also wore their clothes a long time without shame. They also bet their dust foolishly and the rum pathologist of the Little Nasal Dye Works got the wages of the whole crew, live and bye Yankee school marms and their brothers came up here, and everything was lovely; the boys braced up and had some style about 'em. It was a big stroke of good luck to the camp.
"I believe that the mother of a statesman is better calculated to vote than a man that can't read or write. I may be a little peculiar but I think that when a woman has marched a ban;l of hostile boys all the way up to manhood and give 'em a good start and made good citizens out of 'em, with this wicked world to buck agin all the time, she can vote all day, so far as I'm concerned, in preference to the man who don t know whether Michigan is in Missouri or St. Louis. I am in favor of making the location and going ahead with our assessment work, and I'll bet my pile that there hain't been a measure passed by our august body this winter that will show more mineral on the dump in five years than this one."
The closing speech was made by Elias Kilgore, a retired stage driver, he also favored the bill, and spoke as follows:
"Mr. Speaker–The bill that's before us, it strikes me, is where the road forks. One is the old guv'ment road that has been the style for a good while, and the other is the cut-off. It's a new road but with a little work on it, I reckon it's going to be the best road. You men that opposes the bill has got ezzication–some of you–some of you ain't. You that has it got it at your mother's knee. Second, the more Godlike we get, gentlemen, the more rights we will give women. The closter you get to the cannibals the more apt a woman is to do chores and get choked for her opinions. I don't say that a woman has got to vote because she has the right, no more than our local vigilance committee has got to hang the member from Sweetwater County because it has a right to, but it is a good, wholesome brake on society in case you bust a hold-back or tear oft a harness strap when you are on a steep grade. The member from Sweetwater County says we ort to restrik the vote privilege instead of enlarging it. He goes on to say that too many folks is already 'ntiled to vote. That may be. Too many maudlin drunkards that thinks with fungus growth and reasons with a little fatty degeneration which they calls brains till they runs against an autopsy, too many folks with no voting qualification but talk and trowsiz is allowed to vote, not only at the polls, but to even represent a big and beautiful county like Sweetwater in the Legislature.
"So we are to restrik the vote, I admit, in that direction and enlarge it in the direction of decency and sense. Mr. Speaker, men is too much stuck on themselves. Becuz they was made first, they seem to be checked too high. The fact is that God made the muskeeter and bedbug before he made man. He also made the mud-turtle, the jackass and baboon. When he had all the experience he wanted in creating, he made man. Then he made woman. He done a good job. She suits me. She fooled herself once, but why was it? It was Monday. She had a picked-up dinner. Adam wanted something to finish off with. Eve suggested a cottage pudding. 'Oh, blow your cottage pudding,' says Ad. 'How would you like a little currant jell?' says she. 'No currant jell, if you will excuse me,' says Ad. 'Well, say a saucerful of "tipsy parson," with a little coffee and a Rhode Island pudding?' 'Don't talk to me about Rhode Island gravies,' says Ad. 'You make me tired. Wash-day here, is worse than the fodder we had at the Gem City house on our wedding tower. I haven't had a thing to eat yet that was fit to feed to a shingle mill. Give me a fillet of elephant's veal. Kill that little fat elephant that eats the blackberries night. Fix up a little Roman salad.' he said, 'and put a quart of Royal Berton see on ice for me. I will take a little plum duff and one of those apples that the Lord told us not to pick. Do that for next wash-day, Evie,' says Ad, 'and draw on me."
"These was Adam's words as regular as if he had been reported, I reckon, and that's how sin come into the world. That's why man earns his bread by the sweat of his brow, and the tooth of the serpent bruises the woman's heel. Eve rustled around the ranch to get a little fresh fruit for Ad, and lo! the Deluge and Crucifixion and the Revelation and the Rebellion has growed out of it.
"Proud man, with nothing but an appetite and side-whiskers, lays out to own the earth because Eve overdrawed her account in order to please him. And now, because man claims he was created first and did not sin to amount to anything, he thinks that he has got the brains of the civilized world and practically owns the town.
"I talk without prejudice, Mr. Speaker, because I have no wife. I don't expect to have any. I have had one. She is in heaven now. She belonged there before I married her, but for some reason that I can't find out she was thrown in my way for a few years, and that recollection puts a lump in my throat yet as I stand here. I imposed on her because she had been taught to obey her husband, no matter how much of a dam phool he might be. That was Laura's idea of Christianity. She is dead now. I drive the stage and think. God help the feller that has to think when he's got nothing to think of but an angel in the sky that he ain't got no claim on.
"I've been held up four times, and I drove right along past the road agents. Drove rather slow, hoping that they'd shoot, but they seemed kind of rattled, and so waited for the next stage.
"It's d––d funny to me that woman who suffers most in order that man may come into the world, the one. Mr. Speaker, that is first to find and last to forsake Him, first to hush the cry of a baby Savior in a Jim Crow livery stable in Bethlehem and last to leave the cross, first at the sepulchre and last to doubt the Lord, should be interested with the souls and bodies of generations and yet not know enough to vote." (Applause.)