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Today marks 150th anniversary of suffrage in Wyoming

A Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper from 1888 shows a carving of women voting in Wyoming. (Library of Congress)

CASPER, Wyo. – On this day 150 years ago, Wyoming was the first territory to grant women’s suffrage. 

According to an article by Tom Rey for the Wyoming State Historical Society, the road to suffrage was started by a saloon owner in South Pass City named William Bright.

Bright, a Democrat, opposed full citizenship and voting rights for black people after the Civil War. Nonetheless, Bright saw the shrinking population of South Pass as a threat to his saloon business. While in the legislature, he took on the cause for women’s rights in part to help Wyoming’s population grow. He introduced a bill giving Wyoming women the right to vote, which it was hoped would bring the territory good publicity and attract more women, which in turn would mean more families and children.

The bill would also have the possible benefit of making make the Republican governor look bad.

 “If they passed the bill, many assumed, Campbell would veto it,” writes Rey.

After moving through the legislative process and a few days after landing on the governor’s desk, the law allowing women the right to vote in Wyoming was signed on December 10, 1869. A repeal effort later was vetoed.

You can read several articles on Wyoming suffrage at the Wyoming State Historical Society. 

There are a number of events scheduled today to mark the historic event, many at the newly-restored Wyoming State Capitol.

Celebrations start at 8 a.m. with a march from West 17th & Carey to the State Capitol, where at 9 a.m. Governor Gordon will read a special declaration commemorating the day during a ceremony.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., tours will be given at the Capitol and its Historic Territorial Chamber, where women’s suffrage was upheld.

At noon a musical performance will commemorate the day.

The Women’s Suffrage Traveling Exhibit is on display through the day at the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne.

In Big Horn the Brinton Museum is displaying a suffrage exhibit, as is the Lander Art Center in Lander. Northwest College in Powell is holding events for suffrage through the day.

A concert celebrating suffrage starts at 7 p.m. at the Cheyenne Civic Center.