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On this day in history, Wyoming Territory formed, proved global leader for women’s suffrage

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The Wyoming Territory was formed by an act of Congress on this date, July 25, in 1868. 

It proved a landmark moment in the fight for women’s rights, both here in the United States and around the world. 

The following year, 1869, Wyoming became the first American state or territory to grant women the right to vote

Women in Wyoming also gained important access to the judicial system for the fist time in United States history. 

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John Allen Campbell, who served as a Union officer in the Civil War, was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant as territorial governor. 

He signed the landmark bill passed by the Wyoming legislature on Dec. 10, 1869. 

Louisa Swain of Laramie cast the first documented vote by a woman in the United States in the territorial election of Sept. 6, 1870, according to the Wyoming State Library. 

Suffrage postcard, with a four-starred American flag, celebrating Wyoming as the first of four states to grant women full voting rights, endorsed by the National Woman's Suffrage Association, published by the Cargill Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1910; photography by Emilia van Beugen.

Suffrage postcard, with a four-starred American flag, celebrating Wyoming as the first of four states to grant women full voting rights, endorsed by the National Woman’s Suffrage Association, published by the Cargill Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1910; photography by Emilia van Beugen.
(Ken Florey Suffrage Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

A list of other firsts for women quickly followed the territory’s 1869 decision, the State Library reports. 

Among them: the first female justice of the peace in the United States (Esther Hobart Morris); the first female bailiff in the nation (Martha Symons Boies Atkinson); and the first women to serve on a jury in the U.S., each event in 1870. 

Louisa Swain of Wyoming cast the first documented vote by a woman in the United States in 1870.

The Wyoming Constitution was ratified in 1889 as the Equality State prepared to join the Union the following year.

It entered as first in the nation to guarantee women the right to vote, as encoded in Article 6 of the Wyoming Constitution. 

Louisa Swain of Laramie, Wyoming, is believed to be the first women in America to vote, in the Wyoming Territorial Election of September 1870. 

Louisa Swain of Laramie, Wyoming, is believed to be the first women in America to vote, in the Wyoming Territorial Election of September 1870. 
(Public Domain)

“The rights of citizens of the State of Wyoming to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex,” the document states. 

“Both male and female citizens of this state shall equally enjoy all civil, political and religious rights and privileges.”

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Wyoming’s foresight put the sprawling western state decades ahead of the global movement for women’s suffrage. 

John Allen Campbell was a Union officer in the Civil War appointed by President Ulysses Grant to serve as the first governor of the Wyoming Territory. He signed a bill granting women the right to vote on Dec. 10, 1869. 

John Allen Campbell was a Union officer in the Civil War appointed by President Ulysses Grant to serve as the first governor of the Wyoming Territory. He signed a bill granting women the right to vote on Dec. 10, 1869. 
(Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

Norway became the first nation to allow women to vote in 1913. Doors begin to open at the end of World War I as Great Britain (1918), Germany (1918) and the Netherlands (1919) all granted universal rights for women to vote. 

Women in the United States gained suffrage in 1920. France did not allow women to vote until 1944. 

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“This action forged Wyoming’s place in history as the Equality State,” Wyoming Secretary of State Edward Buchanan stated in the re-issued state Constitution in 2018. 

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“A half-century later, the U.S. Constitution followed Wyoming and granted those same rights through the 19th Amendment.”



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