States That Gave Women the Right to Vote Before 1900
Organized advocacy for women's voting rights, also known as the Suffrage Movement, began in 1848 when the Seneca Falls Convention was held. At this meeting the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments was drafted and signed. This document outlined social, political and economic rights women currently lacked, including voting rights. Because of the work of early suffragists, the Territory of Wyoming passed legislation allowing women the right to vote in 1869. However, state-level voting rights did not include the right to vote during presidential elections.
It took many decades of activist effort before the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920 and all women received full voting rights. Notably, the first territories and states to pass legislation allowing women to vote were located in the West; many people believed that voting rights would first be gained in the East. One theory that explains why the Western states were more receptive to women's voting rights is Western settlers tended to place more value on individual freedom.
Wyoming Territory granted women the right to vote in 1869. Every woman living in the territory over the age of 21 was able to vote. One year later, Eliza A. Swain became the first woman to cast a vote. That same year, 1870, women were granted the right to serve on juries in the territory. These rights remained unchallenged until the U.S. Congress threatened not to grant Wyoming statehood if women continued to be allowed to vote. Wyoming officials did not give in, however, and on July 10, 1890, President William Henry Harrison signed a bill admitting Wyoming to the union as the "Equality State."
Women had to protest to gain the right to vote in Colorado. Suffragists established the Colorado Non-Partisan Equal Suffrage Association and approached women's organizations, churches, political parties and charity groups to gain allies for their cause. After agitating nonstop from 1877 on, the Women's Suffrage Referendum passed on November 7, 1893. The following year, Colorado became the first state to have elected female legislators.
Women were granted the right to vote two times in the state of Utah. The first time, in 1870, a group who had left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints proposed a bill for women's voting rights which was passed by the Utah territorial legislature without incident. However, when Utah became a state in 1887, the U.S. Congress voided the law. Utah residents joined forces with the National American Woman Suffrage Association and campaigned for to have women's voting rights reinstated. In 1895, women were once again granted the right to vote in Utah, and a law was also passed allowing women to hold political office.
Abigail Scott Duniway was one of the leaders of the Suffrage Movement in Idaho. She organized many campaigns and protests until a bill was passed in 1896 that allowed women the right to vote there. A year later, Duniway was the first woman to register to vote in Idaho. In addition to advocating for women's rights in her own state, Duniway was instrumental in establishing Oregon's Equal Suffrage Proclamation.
- 1 State of Utah: Women's Suffrage in Utah; Jean Bickmore White
- 2 Women of the West Museum: Wyoming: The Equality State
- 3 Women of the West Museum: Colorado: Populism, Panic and Persistence
- 4 Idaho Collections Group: Abigail Scott Duniway and Idaho Suffrage
- 5 Syracuse University Press: Seneca Falls Convention
- 6 University of Missouri-Kansas City: Women's Fight for the Vote: The Nineteenth Amendment
- 7 National Costitution Center: Centuries of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline
- 8 Women and Social Movements: Why Did Colorado Suffragists Fail to Win the Right