Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.
December 10, 1869: Woman suffrage has returned to America!
For the first time since 1807, when the New Jersey Legislature revoked the right of that State’s unmarried and property-owning women to vote, there is now a part of the United States where any woman – regardless of her marital or economic status – can now legally cast a ballot: The Territory of Wyoming!
Established by Congress on July 25th of last year from land that was formerly part of Dakota, Utah and Idaho Territories, Wyoming has now become the first of what will certainly be many more victories in the battle for woman suffrage.
The suffrage bill was introduced into the Territorial Legislature by William H. Bright, a South Pass saloon owner, whose wife, Julia, is an enthusiastic suffragist.
The measure was approved by the Council (equivalent to the Senate) 6-2. The House passed it 7-4 with one abstention. Following passage by the all-Democratic legislature, Republican Governor John A. Campbell signed the bill today, while women kept vigil outside his office until he did so. This unique and landmark legislation reads:
A BILL TO GRANT THE WOMEN OF WYOMING TERRITORY THE RIGHT OF SUFFRAGE, AND TO HOLD OFFICE.
Be it enacted by the Council and House of Representatives of the Territory of Wyoming:
SECTION 1. That every women of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this territory, may, at every election to be holden under the laws thereof, cast her vote. And her rights to the elective franchise and to hold office shall be the same under the election laws of this territory, as those of electors.
SECTION 2: This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.
Approved, December 10, 1869.
This is truly an exciting time for the suffrage movement, which on July 19th of this year reached full, vigorous maturity at age 21. It has now been completely revived following its temporary suspension during the War. National women’s rights conventions have resumed and been held annually since May 10, 1866. “The Revolution,” launched on January 8, 1868, by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Parker Pillsbury, provides a lively nationwide forum for women’s rights supporters. On May 15th of this year, the National Woman Suffrage Association was formed in New York City, then on November 24th and 25th, men and women gathered in Cleveland, Ohio, to form the American Woman Suffrage Association. There is also the possibility of using the recently ratified (July 9, 1868) 14th Amendment as a way of winning nationwide woman suffrage through the courts.
Though the first attempt to win woman suffrage was defeated when the men of Kansas voted against it by a two-to-one margin in a referendum two years ago, today appears to be a turning point in the battle. The women of Wyoming Territory will soon begin going to the polls to cast votes, and it will become obvious that woman suffrage is no “threat to the family” as opponents claim, but rather a clear gain for society, as well as simple justice for those who have suffered “taxation without representation” and obeyed laws enacted by politicians who have had nothing to fear from voteless women.
Once women standing in line at polling places in Wyoming becomes a commonplace sight, and the Territory’s 9,000 residents begin to reap the benefits that women will bring to politics, “equal suffrage” should spread rapidly to the rest of the Western Territories, then to all 37 States.