Wyoming “The Equality State”

Wyoming’s nickname is “The Equality State” and Francis Emroy Warren and Esther Hobart Morris  were key characters in the history of women’s suffrage in the state.

F.E. Warren

F. E., as we fondly refer to him, served in the Dakota Territorial Legislature prior to Wyoming statehood. He advocated for the women’s vote and, at the time Wyoming applied for statehood, the right for women to vote was included in the application to become a state.  Congress balked at its inclusion because at that time no other state provided for such rights.  F.E. then submitted a letter stating that if it were not included Wyoming would withdraw its application.  Congress finally approved Wyoming statehood along with the provision allowing women to vote. 

F.E. supported his wife and daughter in full participation in the government.   His wife, Helen, is said to have been the first woman in Laramie County to cast a vote and his daughter, Frances (Frankie), worked at the polls for a number of years.  In 1900, Frankie became the first woman delegate elected to a Republican National Convention. In the same year, Elizabeth Cohen of Utah was chosen as an alternate to the Democratic National Convention. When another delegate became ill, Cohen became the first woman delegate to a Democratic National Convention.

F.E. and Frankie continued to be active in supporting women’s suffrage on the national level.  In fact, F.E. repeatedly introduced bills in the U.S. Senate calling for women’s suffrage on a national scale.  He persisted until approval was finally achieved. 

Esther Hobart Morris

While Wyoming was still a Territory, Esther Hobart Morris was the first woman named to public office in the U.S.  Her appointment as justice of the peace of Sweetwater County on February 14, 1870, followed the resignation of Judge J. W. Stillman.  Apparently Stillman may have had some resistance to her appointment, since he refused to hand over his court docket.  The spunky Judge Morris had him arrested, though ultimately she dismissed her own case with a ruling that she as an interested party did not have the authority to arrest him. 

She then began her own docket, and held court sitting on a wood slab of her log cabin.  She ruled in a community where men outnumbered women 4 to 1.  Her constituency included miners, gamblers, speculators, business owners, prostitutes and rounders. 

Judge Morris ruled on 27 cases, including nine criminal cases. While some were appealed, none of her decisions were overturned.

A bronze statue of Esther Hobart Morris stands before the Wyoming State Capitol Building in Cheyenne, Wyoming and another is located in our nation’s capitol building in Washington, D.C.


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