09 December 2006

Rub A Dub Dub

I'm still studiously trying to avoid current politics until after the new year as I simply don't want to be depressed by the President, Congress, mealy mouthed news media and everyone else who thinks it's perfectly okay to slaughter men women and children rather than admit they made a mistake and getting help to get out of the mess.

In the meantime, a flashback to the women who made my right to speak out loudly and with force.

Esther Slack Morris

On December 10, 1869, John Campbell, Governor of the Wyoming Territory, approved the first law in U.S. history explicitly granting women the right to vote. Commemorated in later years as Wyoming Day, the event was one of many firsts for women achieved in the Equality State. Wyoming voters again made history in 1924 when they elected Nellie Taylor Ross as the first woman governor in the United States.

The events leading up to the passage of the 1869 suffrage law were put into motion by Esther Slack Morris. When she arrived in South Pass, Wyoming in 1869. Morris embraced the women's rights movement when she was prevented, on account of the discriminatory property laws in the state of Illinois, from claiming title to a tract of land left to her by her deceased husband. By the time she moved west, she was familiar with the ideas of activists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott.

Anthony, Stanton, and Mott sculpture in Statuary Hall in Washington D.C. (Often referred to as the three ladies in a tub)

When Morris joined her second husband and family in South Pass, preparations were being made for the first election in the newly-recognized territory. At this point, twenty of the most influential men in the community, including all the candidates of both parties, were invited to dinner to her guests she now presented the woman's case with such clarity and persuasion that each candidate gave her his solemn pledge that if elected he would introduce and support a woman suffrage bill. Democrat William Bright, who had been present at Morris's home, kept his promise and introduced a bill granting women the right to vote.

Although the legislators treated the legislation as a joke, they approved it nonetheless. To their surprise, Governor Campbell signed it into law. The summoning, three months later, of the first women jurors to duty in Laramie, the capital of the territory, attracted international attention.

When Wyoming applied for statehood in 1890, it seemed doubtful the territory would be accepted as long as women had the vote. There are two versions of the message that Wyoming gave Washington: " We may stay out of the Union for 100 years, but we will come in with our women" or "we will remain out of the Union a hundred years rather than come in without the women." Either way, they didn't have to stay out--Wyoming became a state with women's suffrage intact.

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