In which women in America are granted the right to vote for the first time in the unlikeliest of places.

Cheyenne, Wyoming, September, 1869.

     “I’m so looking forward to hearing young Miss Dickinson deliver her speech tonight,” said Mary Ward. “I understand that she’s a most engaging speaker!”

     “So I’ve heard,” replied her companion, Julia Bright, as they entered the courthouse in Cheyenne and glanced around the room in search of suitable seats.

     The room was filling up fast, and the excitement of those already gathered was palpable. A hum of conversation could be heard as the audience prepared for the much-anticipated arrival of the dynamic young woman variously known as ‘The Girl Orator’, ‘The Quaker Joan of Arc’, and ‘The Most Eloquent Woman of the Century’.

     “Many of the menfolk regard her as rather threatening,” remarked Julia as she took a seat next to the aisle. Some thirty feet away was a raised dais on top of which stood a lectern.

    “I doubt she’ll be needing that,” continued Julia, pointing to the lectern. “I’m told she speaks most eloquently without notes of any kind! However, Mr. Baker, the editor of our local newspaper, was rather dismissive of Miss Dickinson. You know, he trotted out the usual stuff about how women should steer clear of politics, take care of home and children, and submit to their husbands… all that sort of rot! He wrote in his editorial that women were delicate and emotional, quite unfitted to make rational decisions about the important issues of our time. They should therefore never be granted the vote!”

     “Of course, I don’t agree with him,” said Mary, “but isn’t it true that our first responsibility, as women, is to our home and family?”

     Julia was about to deliver a stern and indignant retort to her friend, but a sudden hush greeted the arrival of two people, a man and a woman, who walked to the dais, and took their seats. Julia recognized Edwin Merwin Lee, the newly appointed Territorial Secretary. She nudged her friend, and whispered:

     “That must surely be Miss Dickinson!”

     The two friends studied the new arrival with interest. She was a woman of medium height with close cropped curly brown hair. Her facial features, while perhaps not conventionally beautiful, were striking and well-formed, and there was a determined tilt to her nose and chin. Her piercing dark eyes surveyed the serried ranks of men and women with an expression of defiance. She was wearing a plain but elegant black dress with a diamond brooch pinned to the breast, and a simple gold chain hung around her neck. The fingers of her right hand were playing nervously with the chain as she waited for Mr. Lee to make his introduction.

     How magnificent she is, though Julia, full of restless energy like a panther waiting to spring!

     The Wyoming Territorial Secretary rose to his feet, and stepped forward to the lectern. He cleared his throat and addressed the assembled audience in the firm measured tones of a man used to public speaking (Julia recalled that he had previously been a lawyer and politician in his home state of Connecticut):

    “Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to welcome you this evening to hear the words of a young woman whom I truly admire. Miss Anna Elizabeth Dickinson is a most accomplished speaker on a number of topics including abolition and temperance. She has been a public speaker since the tender age of fifteen. She has addressed audiences in many cities across our nation to great acclaim. She once spoke to a gathering of 5,000 people at the Cooper Institute in New York City, and has earned numerous standing ovations in recognition of her eloquence. During the recent war that tragically divided our nation, she addressed the Congress of the United States in the presence of our late president, Abraham Lincoln. I trust that you will extend a warm Wyoming welcome to Miss Dickinson as she speaks to us on the subject of women’s enfranchisement. Miss Dickinson!”

      The young woman rose confidently, advanced to the lectern, and shook hands with Mr. Lee, who then returned to his seat.

     “Ladies and gentlemen,” she began in a strong husky voice which carried all the way to the back of the packed courtroom. “It is my honor to be invited to address you today. I must thank Mr. Lee for his kind introduction, and also the Wyoming Territorial Governor, Mr. John Campbell, who is present here tonight with his wife.”

     She paused, and there was scattered applause as the new governor rose to his feet to briefly acknowledge her thanks. His lukewarm reception by the audience was undoubtedly due to his being an appointee of the Republican President in a city and territory that was a Democratic Party stronghold.

     In the brief interlude afforded by the governor’s acknowledgement, Anna Dickinson had stepped aside from the lectern, and had taken a position in the center of the dais. As the applause died away, she continued in a firm confident tone:

     “I will speak to you directly and sincerely. I need no notes to remind me of what I must say. For this is a subject close to my heart. The recent amendments made to the Constitution of our great nation, extending the franchise to all male citizens of whatever race, color or creed is a huge step forward in democracy. Of that there is no question, but even so there is still a major section of our citizenry which remains without a vote or a voice in determining the great issues and decisions of our country, without the right to elect those representing its interests! I believe that all of you distinguished gentlemen know to which group of citizens I am referring!”

     She paused as a ripple of laughter, largely feminine, swept through the audience, before continuing in a voice tinged with irony:

     They say that politics is impure, an unsuitable activity for women, that we have no real interest in politics, that we would not understand complex political issues, and that we women have NO DESIRE TO VOTE!”

     “What do they speak of, our fathers and husbands and brothers, when we raise the issue of a woman’s right to vote? Ah, yes, I remember. ‘The Cult of True Womanhood’! By that they mean that we are to be pious and submissive. They quote the Bible, saying that St. Paul instructed women to be ‘discreet, chaste keepers at home and obedient to their husbands’! They speak of ‘separate spheres’! Women are supposed to be passive, nurturing, and domestic. Men are aggressive, competitive, working in the outside world. All of this to justify why they are denying us our absolute right, sisters, to a voice in the decisions of our country.

    Anna Dickinson uttered these last four words in a voice that was quivering with scarcely-suppressed anger. She had advanced to the very edge of the dais, and was looking down directly into the faces of the front rows of her audience.

     “They further claim that we do not deserve the vote because we are too weak and feeble to defend our country!” she continued in a tone of incredulity. “Well, let me tell you that I for one would take up arms and fight like a tiger to protect my home, my family and my country. I believe there are many women in this audience tonight who would do the same. There are countless examples of brave women warriors throughout history who have fought and given their lives for their homeland – Britain’s Boudicea and France’s Jeanne d’Arc for example. Are not the women of this perilous frontier who have struggled alongside their menfolk to survive in harsh conditions equally strong and courageous? Do they not deserve to be accorded simple respect and the right to participate in our democracy?”

     The atmosphere in the room was electric. The audience, spell-bound, were held in thrall by the dark-eyed gaze of this intense charismatic woman and they hung on her every powerful word.

     All at once her face broke out into a radiant smile which seemed to illuminate her face like a beacon so that it was all of a sudden suffused with beauty.

    “Lest my brothers in our audience should judge me as just another hysterical, ranting woman, let me set aside the rhetoric for a moment and speak to you in practical terms. I believe that the time for the enfranchisement of women is indisputably upon us! Already we have given the vote to every man in the country regardless of race, color or religion, be they rich or poor, educated or not. Those who were formerly slaves are now able to vote. Surely it is time to award that right to women also. Ten years have passed since the state of Washington and the state of Nebraska considered women’s enfranchisement. Your own Territorial Secretary, Mr. Lee, proposed such a measure in the Legislature of Connecticut a mere two years ago, and just this past year the Dakota Territory failed to pass a bill for women’s franchise by  only a single vote! The time is surely here, my friends! I understand that you are about to hold your first Territorial elections here. What a great and historic honor it would be if Wyoming through its newly-elected representatives became the first region of this great nation of ours to give women the right to vote!”

     An audible murmur ran through the audience. Peering cautiously around her, Julia observed some women nodding vigorously whilst others looked doubtful. Several men were shaking their heads in disbelief.

     Anna Dickinson continued to speak for more than an hour, forcing home her points about the urgency of women’s enfranchisement with great eloquence and determination. Her arguments ranged widely across the entire spectrum of the subject. She spoke with intelligence and eloquence, quoting from Shakespeare, the Bible, Napoleon and even the British historian, Carlyle. Her earnestness and determination compelled the attention and respect of the entire audience even if many of its most conservative members could not agree with her. At last she drew to a conclusion.

     “Gentlemen, I, as a representative of womankind ask you: Is this not our country just as much as it is yours? Are you not willing to share your power so that we are no longer denied our economic and political opportunities?

As my friend and mentor, Susan B. Anthony, has said: ‘Men, their rights and nothing more, women, their rights and nothing less!’”

     With these words ringing in the ears of her audience, she bowed her head for a moment, and then turned and swept back to her chair.

    For a few moments there was silence in the room, broken finally by thunderous applause, punctuated by numerous expressions of admiration and approval.

    Julia and Mary joined in the applause enthusiastically, and after it had died down and the Governor, the Secretary and their guest had left the building, they sat together, reluctant to leave or to break the mesmerizing spell of Dickinson’s words.

     “Remarkable!” breathed Mary. “I am quite persuaded that she is right!”

     “I, too,” agreed Julia. “As you know, Mary, my husband, William is running for a seat in the new legislature to represent Carter County. The men of the territory are voting at this very moment. I must speak to him about this at the earliest opportunity.”

Cheyenne, Wyoming, November, 1869.

     “I am so proud of you, William,” gushed Julia Bright to her husband. “To be elected to represent Carter County and South Pass in the Territorial legislature is such an honor. How our fortunes have risen since we arrived here from Virginia just two years ago! And now they’ve voted you President of the Council!”

      “We’ve certainly got on fast!” replied William Bright smugly.

      “So clever of you to stake out all those land claims, and then sell them to the incoming miners,” continued his wife, sitting down next to him on the sofa and placing her hand on his arm.

      “So much easier and much more profitable to deal in land than to labor hard and long in search of gold ore that may’nt even be there,” remarked William complacently. “Let the other feller get his hands dirty!”

     “Indeed, my dear, and I am so grateful for your efforts on our behalf,” declared Julia. “I could not have asked for a better husband and provider.”

     William glanced at his wife suspiciously. He could never quite believe that an attractive, young woman such as Julia could possibly love him. After all, he was so much older than her, and he didn’t consider himself either smart or handsome! And wasn’t she laying on the praise rather too thickly? At that moment his wife turned her blue eyes upon him, put her head on one side and said:

      “William, there is something that I need to talk to you about.”

      “Yes, my love,” he replied cautiously, “and what might that be?”

       “You will remember that, while you were campaigning in South Pass two months past, Mary and I went to hear that woman, Anna Dickinson, speak on the matter of female suffrage,” said Julia.

       “Yes, I seem to remember you told me you’d attended such an event,” conceded William.

      “Well, my dear,” continued Julia, “since that time we’ve been so busy preparing to come down here for the first session of the Legislature that I’ve had no opportunity to talk to you about that evening.”

      “So what is it you want to talk ‘bout, Julia?” asked William impatiently.

      “Why, votes for women, of course!” exclaimed his wife. “Both Mary and I were most impressed with Miss Dickinson’s arguments in favor of it, and her declaration that now was the time for Wyoming to lead the way!”

     “Why, whatever are you suggesting, Julia?” protested William.

     “Miss Dickinson said that women had earned the right to vote here in Wyoming by their hard work and their support of their husbands in developing the frontier,” replied Julia, her words coming in a rush. “She said that, Congress having endowed all male citizens with the vote, it was high time that women should receive the same rights. I happen to agree with her!”

     Julia paused for breath, watching her husband’s face for clues about how he was receiving her comments.

     “Now look here, Julia,” said William indignantly. “Most of my colleagues in the Legislature aren’t exactly overjoyed about black men getting the vote.”

     “All the more reason that they should be open to granting women voting rights,” insisted Julia. “Many of these black men have limited education, some indeed are illiterate. Surely intelligent women such as Mary and I have the same right to participate in our democracy!”

     “It’s not as easy as you think to change the law,” objected William defensively.

     “Miss Dickinson explained it to us, William,” replied Julia patiently. “In a Territory such as ours it’s only necessary for a bill to pass the two parts of the Legislature with a simple majority and then be signed by the Governor to make it law.  It’s much easier to pass a new law in a territory than it is in a state or at the federal level. Why, Dakota Territory just failed to pass a women’s franchise bill by only a single vote two months ago. I’m sure that if you proposed a bill here in Wyoming, it’d pass. Think what an honor that would be, William! Your name would be preserved in history as one of the first men to give women the vote!”

     William drew a handkerchief from his coat pocket, and mopped his brow.

     “You’ve certainly done your homework, Julia,” he remarked dryly. “Perhaps it’s you should be serving in the legislature!”

     “Give us women the vote, my dear, and one day perhaps I shall,” said Julia with a twinkle in her eye.

     “Let’s say I could persuade my Democratic colleagues to pass such a bill, wouldn’t the Governor, who is a Republican, veto it?” asked William.

     “I’m not so sure,” replied his wife. “He was also present on the night of Miss Dickinson’s speech, and Mr. Lee, the territorial secretary, is a supporter of women’s enfranchisement. He proposed such a bill in Connecticut. He could be our ally in persuading the governor to sign.”

     “Well, Julia honey, I can see I’ve married a very determined young woman,” said William, gallantly raising his wife’s hand to his lips. “Let me think on this, my dear. Maybe this is the time! Perhaps I would be famous! And Wyoming, of course!” he added.

     “I am certain of it,” declared Julia decisively.  

Cheyenne, Wyoming, November, 1869.

     “Have a shot o’ whisky, George,” said William Bright hospitably, pushing the decanter across the table.

     “Don’t mind if I do!” declared his fellow Council member, pouring himself a full glass.

     “How about you, Bill?” continued Bright.

     William Rockwell grunted a monosyllabic affirmation, and reached for the decanter. Then he and George Wardman lit their cigars, and soon the room was filled with clouds of blue-grey smoke. Bright waited until his two companions were comfortably seated before proceeding.

    “Well, gentlemen,” he began, “here we are, elected members of the new Wyoming Territorial Legislature. Don’t it feel good?”

    “Mighty fine!” agreed Wardman. “Mighty fine!”

     “Now I figure that if we fellers from South Pass stick together, we kin shape the future of this here territory jest the way we want it to go,” said Bright.

      “Guess you could be right at that,” admitted Rockwell in a guarded tone. “What you have in mind, Bright?”

     He was not sure he entirely trusted William Bright, the newly elected President of The Council, the upper half of the Territorial Legislature. He knew him to be an opportunist, who had arrived in South Pass a mere two years previously from Colorado, who had prospered rapidly by acquiring claims in areas where deposits of precious metals were thought to exist, only to sell them at inflated prices to hungry and gullible gold prospectors.

     Still, he reflected, we’re all newcomers to Wyoming, all looking to make a fast buck. Maybe I shouldn’t judge him too harshly.

     Bright let the question sit for a minute or two as he got his own cigar going. Then he said:

     “Although South Pass has been growin’ fer a while and you and we’ve all bin benefitin’ from the prosperity, the mining business bin slowin’ down over the past year. People’re pullin’ out ev’ry day lookin’ fer the next place to git rich. This ain’t good fer Wyoming. If we want this territory to be a state one day, why we’ve gotta do somethin’ about it! We need bring people back, and attract new people in.”

     “And how we gonna do that?” asked Rockwell bluntly. “Minin’ towns are always boom and bust, especially out here in the West!”

     “I’m plannin’ to introduce a bill in this session of the legislature to extend the vote to all women over the age of eighteen,” replied Bright simply, “and I’m gonna need your support to get it through the Council and the House.”

     Rockwell sat up in his seat with a jerk, almost spilling his tumbler of whisky.

    “Hell, Bright, the members of the Legislature’re already up in arms ‘bout niggers getting the vote. They’ll throw a conniption if you go suggestin’ that wimmin get it too! You’re crazy!”

    “Crazy like a fox!” replied Bright, his voice rising slightly. “Look, Bill, there ain’t nowhere in our country where women can vote right now. Proposals have failed in a number of states and territories, but it won’t stay that way for long. Someone’s gonna let women have the vote sooner or later. Now if we stick our necks out and do it here, it can be a big win for Wyoming. Women’ll see the territory as a place where they git treated with respect. Why, they’ll be flocking here to join us! That’s gotta be a good thing seeing as how right now there’s only one woman to ev’ry six men! And once those women get here, who d’you think they gonna vote for? Why, for us, the Democratic Party! You know what they say: ‘You gotta dance with him what brung ya!’”

     He paused to observe the reactions of his colleagues. Wardman, the one he trusted to fall in line, was nodding his agreement, but Rockwell’s face still wore a skeptical expression.

      “Say, we pass such a bill, who’s to say whether that Republican carpetbagger, Governor Campbell, is goin’ to sign it?” he asked. “He’d probably veto it just to spite us Democrats.”

      “Don’t underestimate that feller,” replied Bright. “He’s smarter ‘n you think. He’s a cautious man, but he’ll figger that a veto’s not gonna make him real popular with the women of the territory!”

       Rockwell twisted his face into an expression of disbelief.

       “What’s the matter, Bill?’ remarked Bright with just a tinge of provocation in his voice. “Don’t you wanna go down in history as one of the great men who first gave the fair sex the right to vote? I sure do! And if we don’t do it, you kin bet your bottom dollar someone else’ll do it real soon! Dakota Territory just missed beatin’ us to it by one vote just a few months back!”

       He paused, awaiting some kind of response from his companions.

       “You’re right, William,” Wardman said at last. “Count me in! I’ll back you all the way. My wife says as how educated white women should have the vote ahead of ignorant niggers.”

        “I believe that both groups have the right,” said Bright although he felt in his heart that giving the vote to former slaves was moving too far too fast. “And what about you, Bill?” he asked.

       Rockwell frowned, and spread his hands wide. He still didn’t trust Bright, but he was willing to go along for the moment anyway.

      “Damn it, if we’re letting the niggers and the pigtails have it, then we might as well bring in the women too!” he growled.

       “Very well, my friends,” said Bright, with a smile. “Then let’s get down to business and talk tactics. How we gonna to get this bill into law?”

Cheyenne, Wyoming, December, 1869.

     “I can’t believe it, William!” exclaimed Julia Bright with unsuppressed excitement. “You really got them to pass the bill!”

     “I had some strong allies,” said Bright modestly. “George Wardman stood by me. The members of the Council took some persuading, but in the end they saw how it would help the territory. But that rat, Bill Rockwell, deserted me! He was one of only two Council members to vote against the bill after he’d given me his solemn word to support it!”

     “I’m surprised at him,” said Julia angrily, “and him a South Pass man too!  I’ll be sure to give him a piece of my mind next time I see him!”

     William Bright smiled wryly at the thought of his feisty opinionated young wife directing her furious indignation at William Rockwell. Poor fellow, he doesn’t know what he’s in for!

       “Well, in the end it passed comfortably six votes to two,” he continued, “but it was a much tougher road through the House. Benjamin Sheeks, another South Pass man that wears blinkers, rallied the opposition along with Speaker Curran of Carbon County. They used all kinds of tactics to block the bill – motions of adjournments, multiple revisions and amendments. I was afraid it’d never pass! But Mr. Sebree of Laramie County, God bless him, took the chair, and he guided it through by seven votes to four. It was a close-run thing, and we only just squeezed it through by agreeing to raise the voting age for women from eighteen to twenty-one. But that seemed like a small price to pay for such a huge victory. Now it sets on the Governor’s desk waiting for his signature.”

     “Do you think he’s going to sign it, William?” asked Julia anxiously.

     “Hard to say,” replied Bright. “Secretary Lee’s pushing hard for it, and some of our more prominent citizens, Chief Justice Howe, Judge Kingsman and Mrs. Arnold, have visited the Governor to lobby for its passage.”

     “I know of another who could argue most eloquently in its favor,” declared Julia, “and I’m going to make it my business to ensure that she gets to see Governor Campbell!”

Cheyenne, Wyoming, December, 1869.

     “The Legislature has already passed a bill enabling married women to protect their property during a divorce proceeding and another awarding female teachers equality of pay with their male counterparts. You signed both those bills into law, Governor Campbell, showing yourself to be a man of honor and vision. In that light I dearly hope that you would not hesitate to sign this most important bill for women’s enfranchisement that currently awaits your approval.”

     The speaker was a slender attractive woman, neatly-dressed, whose most distinctive feature was the clear penetrating gaze of her large brown eyes.

     Governor John Allan Campbell, a handsome man in his mid-thirties with the bearing of a former military man, was listening politely to the appeals of his visitor, one hand absently stroking his luxuriant beard. A former brevet brigadier in the Union Army, who had worked after the war on reconstruction in Virginia, he had been selected by President Ulysses S. Grant to govern the new territory of Wyoming. He was a cautious man by nature, rational and pragmatic, and his position as externally-appointed Republican executive in a predominantly Democratic territory had made him even more deliberate and guarded in his decision-making.

     “Your arguments are most logical and persuasive, Mrs. Post,” he said politely. “I fully recognize that women in these times have been acquiring ever increasing rights across our nation, and have earned and fully deserve the right to vote. However here in Wyoming, as chief executive, I must consider all the implications and gauge the will of the people. You are aware, I am sure, that there is significant opposition throughout the territory to the extension of the franchise to women.”

       Amalia Post gazed directly into the Governor’s eyes, fastening him with her most stern expression.

       “Surely, Governor, you would not countenance the type of patronizing and condescending opinions that we have been reading recently in our city’s newspapers,” she said icily. “Their images of women as feeble, emotional creatures prone to hysteria and collapse do not in my experience correspond in the slightest to the tough independent women of the western frontier. The women of Wyoming have worked as hard and suffered as much as their menfolk in the building of this territory. Surely it is time to recognize and acknowledge this reality by giving them the right to vote and to make political and economic choices. It will hardly cause a social and political upheaval to permit this privilege to less than a thousand women who are outnumbered six to one by their menfolk!”

     Governor Campbell was both charmed and impressed by the words of this dynamic and daunting woman sitting opposite him. I’d certainly want her on my side in a tough battle, he thought to himself. He raised a hand to touch his thinning hair nervously.

     “I know of which I speak,” continued Amalia Post, leaning confidentially across the desk. “My first husband was an unreliable character. He deserted me on more than one occasion. Finally I had to divorce him. For several years I was obliged to support myself and my children. I raised chickens, I loaned out money at interest, and I learned how to engage in business and make money in competition with men on their own terms. I am proud to say that I was successful on my own without the assistance or protection of a man. There are many women in Wyoming who have shared this experience of independence. Fortunately I have more recently found a good and faithful man who became my second husband, but I know that if I were once again bereft of male companionship, I could survive. This is my personal witness, but I believe it is time to give women such as myself the respect of equality at the ballot box.”

     Governor Campbell straightened in his chair.

    “I must thank you, Mrs. Post, for affording me your precious time and sharing your opinions with me,” he said. “I promise you that I shall give them my most earnest consideration. With citizens such as yourself, Wyoming need not fear for its future. May I escort you to the door?”

     The Governor rose to his feet and courteously guided Mrs. Post out into the hallway where he gave her a gracious bow, instructing his young secretary to see her to her carriage.

Cheyenne, Wyoming, September, 1870.

     One early fall morning an elderly woman, subsequently described in the newspapers as “a gentle, white-haired housewife, Quakerish in appearance”, came walking down Capitol Avenue on her way to procure yeast from a local merchant. She carried a tin pail for that purpose in her hand. As she approached the Alert Hose Company Fire Station, she paused to squint through her spectacles at a sign which read: ‘Polling Station. Vote here.’

     Pushing her bonnet back from her forehead and gathering her shawl about her against the morning chill, she walked up to the open door of the station and peered inside. Two men were sitting at a table, a pile of paper ballots in front of them.

     “Sorry, mother,” said one of the men apologetically. “The station ain’t open just yet. You come too early to vote.”

     He saw the look of disappointment spreading over the old lady’s lined face. He glanced at his companion.

     “A few minutes early? What harm could it do?” he ventured. “Come on, mother, I’ll show you what to do.”

     The old woman shuffled timidly forward.

     So it was that Louisa Ann Swain became the first woman in the United States, and perhaps in the western hemisphere, to cast a vote in any election. It would be fully fifty years before all her sisters across the nation would get to share this basic right. Nevertheless the time had indeed come!      

POSTSCRIPT:  

     Governor Campbell of Wyoming signed the bill granting the vote to all women in the territory over twenty-one years of age on December 30, 1869. During the year following, the first female Justice of the Peace in the United States, Esther Hobart Morris, adjudicated cases in South Pass, Wyoming. Although without legal training she ran her court strictly and fairly, and none of the judgements in her eight-month tenure were subsequently overturned. Amalia Post was called up for jury duty along with numerous other women for the first time in that same year. In at least one case she served as jury chairperson.

     Women voted for the first time in elections for the Legislature in September, 1870. To the chagrin of the Democratic Party Representatives who had given them the opportunity, the women of Wyoming voted by a two to one margin for the Republican Party. The previously all-Democratic Legislature now contained three Republicans. In a fit of retaliatory pique, the Democrats in the legislature spear-headed a bill to repeal the law giving women the vote. It passed both houses, but Governor Campbell showed commendable integrity in using his veto to protect the women’s hard-won rights. He returned the bill unsigned with a detailed explanation of his decision. He defended women’s intelligence and intellect, and pointed to the success of experiments with women voters and jurors.

     Women’s right to vote in Wyoming was never seriously challenged again. Several western states and territories followed Wyoming’s example during the latter decades of the nineteenth century, giving their female citizens the right to vote in local and state-wide elections. Still the majority of women remained without the vote until the United States Congress passed the 19th amendment in 1920, fully fifty years after Wyoming had opened the door.

     There is considerable conjecture amongst historians about how a conservative territory such as Wyoming without any organized women’s suffrage movement could have taken such a radical step. I hope my story suggests a possible scenario although it is finally fiction based on history. All the main characters, however, are real people, protagonists in the historic decision, and scenes such as Anna Dickinson’s speech and the description by William Bright of the rocky passage of the bill through the Wyoming Legislature are based on actual events. The dialogue, of course, is entirely my invention. The challenge of imagining how characters such as those in my story might have spoken and what they might have said provides me with one of my greatest pleasures as an author!

Copyright Michael Neat, August 23, 2019.

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