American history trivia
Myth: Social progress began in cities and then filtered out to rural areas
Truth: Sorry, city slickers! While women’s suffrage was discussed everywhere in the United States in the nineteenth century — most notably at the Seneca Falls Convention organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in upstate New York in 1848 — the first real progress came on the Western frontier.
In 1869 the Wyoming territory became the first political entity in the Northern Hemisphere to grant women the right to vote regardless of their professional or marital status. It also passed laws allowing women to hold public office, own property and elected the country’s first female judge. So why was Wyoming so far ahead of the curve? The biggest reason is that men in Wyoming appreciated their women. After all, there weren’t many of them—in 1870, there was just one woman for every five men in the territory. Life was tough on the frontier, between the sod houses, blizzards, outlaws and small pox, and the women in Wyoming often worked alongside the men, hunting, farming, ranching, and prospecting for gold. Legislators hoped that by giving women rights, it would lead more women to move there. Indeed, women’s suffrage spread quickly in places where women were scarce; Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington, California, Arizona, Oregon, Kansas, Alaska, and Montana all granted women the right to vote by 1914. When it came to women’s suffrage, it was the city folks back East who needed to catch up.