It All Began In Wyoming


Not so with women jurors. After 1871 women were no longer called to serve on Wyoming juries. Judge Howe had retired, and prevailing legal opinion held that jury duty did not necessarily follow from suffrage. Not until 1950 did Wyoming women once again sit on juries.

And although it calls itself the Equality State, Wyoming has not been especially notable for putting its women in office in the century since Esther Morris. The state claims the first woman governor—Nellie Tayloe Ross (1924), and the current secretary of state—Thyra Thomson —is a woman. But both these women entered office in the wake of sympathy after their husbands, who were politicians, died.

Nor has the hearty cowboy laughter at the expense of the ladies faded out. When the state decided to memorialize Esther Morris in 1955, that action occasioned as much legislative humor as the 1869 suffrage bill. One state senator suggested that the infamous Wyoming outlaw Big Nose George might better represent the state. Another proposed a memorial to Steamboat, the bucking bronco that appears on Wyoming license plates. Some senator with an eye to compromise suggested a statue of Esther Morris riding Steamboat. The discussion degenerated entirely with the question of whether a full-length statue of Mrs. Morris was necessary. Wouldn’t her bust do quite as well?

Needless to say, there were no women in the 1955 Wyoming senate. Although women got the vote in Wyoming more than a hundred years ago, they still haven’t got the last laugh. Even in the Equality State, the ladies have a long way to go.