Wyoming History: The Woman’s Suffrage Movement Began Here in the Cowboy State
This week, women all over the country celebrate the anniversary of a historic milestone. 95 years ago, on August 18, 1920, congress ratified the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. It was the culmination of a movement that began decades earlier when Wyoming became the first territory to approve woman's suffrage.
On December 10, 1869, nearly 21 years before Wyoming officially became a state, territorial legislators met in downtown Cheyenne to approve the bill.
At the time, men outnumbered women by a margin of 6 to 1 in the territory. Many of the men who voted in favor of the law did so to encourage more women to settle in the rugged western outpost. Among them was Territorial Governor John Campbell, who also hoped the national publicity would bring more attention and political power to the area.
In 1910, Wyoming would elect its first woman to public office, when Mary G. Bellamy became one of Albany County's representatives in the state legislature. Although she only served one term, Bellamy remained an active force in local politics, serving as Wyoming's delegate to the National Suffrage Convention in 1918.
In 1925, Wyoming became the first state to elect a female governor, when Nellie Tayloe Ross was chosen to replace her late husband William Ross, who had died after less than two years in office. Mrs. Ross served for two years, narrowly losing her reelection big in the fall of 1926.
In 1917, the Cheyenne chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution erected a marker on the site where the first territorial legislature convened. The marker still stands at the building, which now occupied by a wig shop in the Downtown Mall near the corner of 17th Street and Carey in downtown Cheyenne.