I’m sure that most people who are from Wyoming have heard it said that Wyoming is about 20 years behind the times. I suppose that in some ways we are, and I don’t think that is always a bad thing. If we are twenty years behind everyone else on crime, for instance, I’m happy. I’ll admit that for anyone who is looking for the latest styles or latest gadget…well, it can take a little longer to get to Wyoming. Nevertheless, Wyoming hasn’t always been 20 years behind the times. In fact, on this day, December 10, 1869, Wyoming stepped out ahead of the pack, when the Wyoming territorial legislators passed a bill that was signed into law, giving women the right to vote.
Many people have speculated that the legislators did not have the best motives for passing the piece of legislation. People speculated that while everyone knew the importance women played in the settlement of the west, they felt that it was really to bolster the strength of the conservative voters. Others will tell you that it was done because the 6,000 adult men were lonely. By making it legal for women to vote, they hoped it would bring in more women, because the 1,000 women in the territory was not a good number when it came to courting. They hoped that the right to vote would be a big draw to women who wanted equal rights.
I can’t say for sure what the real reason was to pass the legislation, but if you ask me, Wyoming was ahead of its time for once. Another group of people who wanted women’s rights wanted it simply because it was the right thing to do. William Bright, who was one of the territorial legislators, who was in his mid-forties, and had a very persuasive wife, was convinced by his wife that denying women the right to vote, was a gross injustice. The other major backer, Edward M. Lee, the territorial secretary who had championed the cause for years, argued that it was unfair for his mother to be denied a privilege granted to African American males. I’m not sure if he should have used that analogy exactly, but the truth is that he was right. If one citizen is allowed to vote, then all citizens who are of age should be allowed to vote.
I don’t really think that the reasons behind the move to give women the right to vote matter so much as the fact that it happened. I don’t believe in one citizen having for rights, and others who should really have that right too, but are denied. Maybe Wyoming is behind the times in many ways, but is some of the most important ways, they are ahead of their time.