In the fall of 1869, lawmakers in Wyoming’s first territorial legislature passed a bill allowing women the right to vote. The governor signed the bill into law Dec. 10, 1869, making the territory the first government in the world to grant full voting rights to women. The lawmakers mixed partisan politics, racial fears and an eye for national publicity in with a desire among some, at least, to do the right thing.
Women of Wyoming
Women of Wyoming
From their modest upbringings, Mardy and Olaus Murie became diligent, adventurous and charismatic leaders of the American conservation movement. With their siblings, Louise and Adolph Murie, they shaped conservation biology and ecology and are credited with some of our country’s most historic efforts to protect wild lands. The two couples split their time between remote Alaska and a ranch at the feet of the Tetons, where the Murie Center carries on their efforts today.
In 1871, Amalia Post of Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory, became one of the first women to serve on a jury in the United States. Soon, she began advocating for women’s rights on a national level. She was an independent businesswoman from the time her first husband abandoned her in Denver in the early 1860s, through her marriage to her second husband, Cheyenne banker and politician Morton Post and up to the time of her death in 1897.
In March 1866, when whites and Indians together at Fort Laramie mourned the death of Mni Akuwin, daughter of Spotted Tail, chief of the Brulé Lakota, a colonel at the post hoped it was a sign of peace between the peoples. Peace hopes were shattered later that spring however, by the arrival of hundreds of troops to build forts on the Bozeman Trail, and two more years of bitter warfare followed. Finally in 1868, the tribes of the northern plains gathered at the fort and signed a treaty, ending the war—for a while.
Caroline Lockhart wrote a handful of novels about Wyoming in the early 20th century. They made her famous and rich, and they hold up well today. At the same time, she was a new kind of activist, a central figure in bringing to the town of Cody and the state of Wyoming a new kind of nostalgia-based culture that both have embraced ever since.
Lillian Heath, Wyoming’s first woman physician, practiced medicine in and around Rawlins, Wyo., beginning in 1893. As a teenager, she trained with Union Pacific Railroad surgeon Dr. Thomas Maghee, and assisted Maghee and Dr. John Osborne in their post-mortem investigations into the brain of outlaw Big Nose George Parrot. Later she won a medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Keokuk, Iowa, where she specialized in obstetrics. She retired after 15 years of practice, but remained keenly interested in medicine until her death in 1962.
Emma Knight, the University of Wyoming’s first dean of women, bore four children and served seven years as the Albany County, Wyoming superintendent of schools before she finally graduated from the university in 1911, the same year as her daughter. The wife and mother of UW professors of geology—Wilbur and Samuel H. Knight—she was highly regarded by her students and colleagues. Knight Hall on the UW campus is named in her honor.