Learn about Wyoming’s role in women’s suffrage and the 19th amendment

JACKSON, Wyo. — One hundred years after the momentous passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, formalizing women’s inherent right to vote, the Jackson Hole Historical Society & Museum (JHHSM) will celebrate with two events.

While many know that Wyoming enfranchised women with the vote while it was still a territory in 1869, less well-known is the role that Wyoming and other Western states played in the passage of the 19th amendment decades later in 1920.

Join the JHHSM and guest historians Dr. Mary Murphy and Dr. Sherry Smith as they illuminate the role of Wyoming and the West in national suffrage on Thursday, August 20 from 6-7 p.m. online at bit.ly/westernsuffrage.

Murphy and Smith will focus on two interesting and unorthodox women – one an advocate of free love, Sara Bard Field, and the other, Jeannette Rankin, the first woman in the nation elected to the House of Representatives.

According to Smith, “these are not the dowdy, stern-faced suffragists of stereotype but vital young women who pushed not only for the ballot but for a new world of fresh opportunities and expanded freedom for women.”

Photo: Sara Bard Field (on left) with Ingeborg Kindstedt and Maria Lindberg before the automobile they drove across the country in 1915. Credit: Huntington Library, Museums, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California.

 

Smith’s focus will be on Sara Bard Field whose work in Wyoming illustrates the clever and inventive ways suffragists used the power of already enfranchised (thanks to state-based suffrage legislation) women in the West to achieve their national goal.

Smith’s book “Bohemians West: Free Love, Family, and Radicals in Twentieth Century America” tells Bard’s and others’ histories in more depth. It includes the story of Bard’s cross-country “gasoline adventure” road trip from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., including stops in Wyoming.

With two other women and at a time when many thought women incapable of driving across the country, Bard delivered to the U.S. Congress a pro-amendment petition over four miles long and signed by 500,000 Western men and women voters.

Murphy’s presentation will focus on Jeannette Rankin, who was the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916, serving the State of Montana. Rankin, a fervid suffragist, once addressed the Montana State Legislature, thanking the male representatives for presenting her with a bouquet of flowers, but acknowledging she’d rather have the vote than violets.

Photo: Suffragist toast. Credit: Wyoming State Archives.

Dr. Murphy is a Distinguished Professor of History at Montana State University and Director of the Ivan Doig Center for the Study of the Lands and Peoples of the North American West. Learn more about her books and work HERE.

Dr. Smith is a University Distinguished Professor of History (Emerita) at Southern Methodist University and also serves on the board of the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum. Learn more about her books and work HERE.

Several days after the 19th Amendment was ratified, it was certified by U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby on August 26, which is now celebrated as Women’s Equality Day.

The JHHSM will join Off Square Theatre, Wyoming Women’s Action Network and ThinkWY for a virtual Toast to Tenacity on August 26 from noon – 1 p.m. Participate online at bit.ly/toasttotenacity.

The program will include a reading of a 1920’s suffrage propaganda play, a reading of the Declaration of Sentiments, historical photographs, a Toast to Tenacity and discussion around the work that remains. The event will spark dialogue on how to further advance equality in the Equality State.

Written by Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum with contributions from Dr. Sherry L. Smith and Dr. Mary Murphy. Visit jacksonholehistory.org to learn more.

Illustration: Suffrage Follows Lady Liberty Eastward in “The Awakening” by Henry Mayer. By the end of 1914, more than four million women had voting rights equal to men in eleven states, all in the West, leaving women elsewhere still reaching for the light of Liberty’s torch of freedom. Henry Mayer’s 1915 illustration was the centerfold of a special suffrage issue of Puck magazine, guest-edited by New York state suffrage groups. Credit: Library of Congress.
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