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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Hope Emerges

     While the fight over the Fifteenth Amendment was being waged in the east, the western states and territories were more favorable to women’s suffrage.
     The first territorial legislature of the Wyoming Territory granted full voting rights to women in 1869. On September 6, 1870, Louisa Ann Swain of Laramie, Wyoming became the first woman to cast a vote in a general election.
Louisa Swain
In 1890, the U.S. Congress demanded Wyoming rescind the right of women to vote as a condition of statehood. The Wyoming legislature responded in a telegram: “We will remain out of the Union one hundred years rather than come in without the women.” Congress gave in. Wyoming became the 44th state and the first state in which women had full voting rights. 

     Utah had a more turbulent history in relation to women’s suffrage. The territory was home to many Mormon communities that practiced polygamy. Politicians opposed to the practice of polygamy believed if women were given the vote it would help to end the practice. On the other hand, many Mormon men supported voting rights for women to prove to the nation their wives were not oppressed by polygamy.

     In 1870, the Utah territory passed legislation that enfranchised women. This lasted until 1887, when the United States Congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker Anti-Polygamy Act. The act placed restrictions on the Mormon Church, including disincorporating it and seizing its property. It required individuals to take an anti-polygamy oath in order to vote, hold public office or serve on juries. The Edmunds-Tucker Act also disenfranchised all women in the Utah Territory. Both Mormon and non-Mormon women formed suffrage organizations.
      When Utah Territory applied for statehood in 1895, women convinced politicians to include women’s suffrage in the new state Constitution. When Utah became a state in January of 1896, women were again legally able to vote.
     Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, women continued to fight for the right to vote. In a piecemeal array of states, territories, counties and towns, they won different configurations of partial voting rights. Usually, those rights allowed women to vote only for local officials such as school board members, city officers and/or county representatives. But in most of the country, woman were still excluded from participating in elections. 

      In 1872, Susan B. Anthony, voted in the election in Rochester, New York, although the state had not granted suffrage rights to women. Her sisters and eleven other women also voted in the election. They argued that constitutional language gave them the legal right to cast ballots. They were subsequently arrested for voting. Anthony was held on $1000 bail ($21,157 in today’s dollars), the rest were held on $500 bail each. The following year, Anthony was denied a trial by jury and lost her case. She was fined $100 plus court costs.
      The U.S. Congress first introduced a suffrage amendment in 1878. Four years later, the House and Senate appointed committees on woman suffrage. Both favored votes for women. Two years after the favorable reports, the U.S. House of Representatives debated woman suffrage. In 1886, the suffrage amendment finally reached the floor of the U.S. Senate. It was defeated.

     As women received partial voting rights in some places, they began running for public offices. Many women won positions as school board members, county clerks, state legislators, judges, and other local officials. In 1884, Belva Lockwood, the first female to be admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court, even ran for president. Although she lost handily, women had started to gain political clout. But the fight for suffrage was far from over. 

Previous installments:
Voting in Colonial America:


The Fight Begins:

A Rupture in the Cause

Ann Markim

 Buy Links:      Paperback at Amazon    Amazon Kindle


  1. Thanks for posting this -- I knew about Wyoming, but not their stand in favor of women in getting admission, and I didn't know anything about Utah. So much history that they never taught us in school . . . .

  2. Thanks for your comment. I didn't know about Utah either, until I began research for my novel, THE CAUSE. I learned so much doing that research.

  3. Thanks for this. Great to see that so many men also helped women in this fight. We need to see people working together, and it's great reminder that we can.

  4. Thanks for your comment. Throughout the fight for suffrage, women had to depend on men to vote on their behalf. You may know this, but there was a Men's League for Woman Suffrage. I have a great deal of respect for the men who started this organization as well as those who participated in the League's activities.

  5. I so appreciate when the history of the right for women to vote is posted. Colorado was the first state to grant women the right to vote via a constitutional amendment in 1893. Women doctors, many who came to Colorado to help fight for that right, when the state began licensing physicians in 1881 the were licensed he same as men. It is a fascinating history as women demanded the vote and equality. Doris

  6. Interesting info on Colorado doctors. I learned about Colorado when researching THE CAUSE, and it is mentioned in several spots in the novel. I also mention women winning the right to vote in Colorado in next month's blog - you're a step ahead of me:)

    1. Ann, the Doctor's are my primary research for a non-fiction work, and I live in Colorado. (Smile). I look forward to your next blog. You find the most interesting pieces of history.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Thank you. By the way, I live in Omaha. (Sorry I had to delete the previous reply. I published before proofreading,)

  7. Ann, I never tire of reading about that time period, esp. regarding suffrage. As you know I live not far from Susan B. Anthony's home as well as numerous other women from that time period. I, too, didn't realize about the Mormon women helping with suffrage. Once again,I've thoroughly enjoyed your blog. Thank you. Happy writing.

  8. The people of Wyoming should be proud of their history and the respect they had for women. This was a wonderful article, Ann.