Why Wyoming Women Were Granted Voting Rights 50 Years Before the 19th Amendment

An 1888 issue of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper depicts women's suffrage in the Wyoming territory.
An 1888 issue of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper depicts women's suffrage in the Wyoming territory.
Library of Congress, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

More than 50 years before the 19th Amendment gave women across the United States full voting rights, legislators in the Wyoming Territory passed a bill granting suffrage to white female residents aged 21 years and older.

The bill was a political gambit, according to Tom Rea of the Wyoming State Historical Society. On July 25, 1868, the federal government established Wyoming as an official territory—and it needed a government. Eventually, newly elected president Ulysses S. Grant appointed a few of his Republican colleagues to oversee the region. Shortly after Republican John Campbell began his tenure as Wyoming’s new governor in 1869, he issued an official legal opinion that no territorial resident should be denied the opportunity to vote based on race.

But Wyoming’s territorial legislature was made up entirely of Democrats (which was then the party of small government) who, according to official documents, didn't seem interested in advancing the rights of people of color. But they felt differently about women’s rights. In the late 1860s, Wyoming passed bills ensuring equal pay for all teachers, regardless of gender, and guaranteeing married women individual property rights (separate from their husbands). In some ways, women’s suffrage was the logical next step.

While some legislators did sincerely believe in supporting women’s rights, other lawmakers had different motives for suggesting that women should be able to vote. Men outnumbered women by a 6-to-1 ratio at the time, so Wyoming leaders hoped the new measure might attract more single women to the territory. Other Democratic leaders hoped the proposal would put Governor Campbell in a tough position: If Campbell, who had a history of supporting voting rights for black Americans, vetoed a bill granting voting rights to women, he would look hypocritical. And if the proposal did pass, Democrats hoped women voters would give them the credit and support their party.

The bill eventually passed seven votes to four, with one abstention. After taking several days to decide on his position, Governor Campbell signed the bill into law on December 10, 1869—making Wyoming the first state to allow women the right to vote and to elect a governor.

But Democrats who had hoped that women would use their new power to support the political party that made it happen for them were quickly disappointed. In 1870, women voters helped send a Republican territorial representative to Congress. One year later, they elected a few Republicans to the territorial legislature. Democrats blamed women voters for their defeats, and they soon passed a bill rescinding women’s suffrage—but it was too late. Campbell vetoed the repeal, and Democrats fell one vote short of the number needed to override the governor’s decision.

Though it wasn't a smooth transition for Wyoming, other Western territories soon followed suit. Utah passed suffrage laws in 1870 (women were later disenfranchised by the 1887 Edmunds-Tucker Act, but they regained the right to vote in 1896), and Washington and Montana gave women the right to vote in the 1880s. By 1919, women had full voting rights in 15 states, 13 of which were west of the Mississippi River.

Because of its status as the first state to grant women suffrage, Wyoming calls itself the Equality State. While the full truth of that moniker remains somewhat debatable, the state certainly deserves recognition for its role as an early trailblazer.

Kodak’s New Cameras Don't Just Take Photos—They Also Print Them

Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.

Snapping a photo and immediately sharing it on social media is definitely convenient, but there’s still something so satisfying about having the printed photo—like you’re actually holding the memory in your hands. Kodak’s new STEP cameras now offer the best of both worlds.

As its name implies, the Kodak STEP Instant Print Digital Camera, available for $70 on Amazon, lets you take a picture and print it out on that very same device. Not only do you get to skip the irksome process of uploading photos to your computer and printing them on your bulky, non-portable printer (or worse yet, having to wait for your local pharmacy to print them for you), but you never need to bother with ink cartridges or toner, either. The Kodak STEP comes with special 2-inch-by-3-inch printing paper inlaid with color crystals that bring your image to life. There’s also an adhesive layer on the back, so you can easily stick your photos to laptop covers, scrapbooks, or whatever else could use a little adornment.

There's a 10-second self-timer, so you don't have to ask strangers to take your group photos.Kodak

For those of you who want to give your photos some added flair, you might like the Kodak STEP Touch, available for $130 from Amazon. It’s similar to the regular Kodak STEP, but the LCD touch screen allows you to edit your photos before you print them; you can also shoot short videos and even share your content straight to social media.

If you want to print photos from your smartphone gallery, there's the Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer. This portable $80 printer connects to any iOS or Android device with Bluetooth capabilities and can print whatever photos you send to it.

The Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer connects to an app that allows you to add filters and other effects to your photos. Kodak

All three Kodak STEP devices come with some of that magical printer paper, but you can order additional refills, too—a 20-sheet set costs $8 on Amazon.

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13 Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions

Would you fly in this?
Would you fly in this?

As it turns out, being destroyed by the very thing you create is not only applicable to the sentient machines and laboratory monsters of science fiction.

In this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy takes us on a sometimes tragic, always fascinating journey through the history of invention, highlighting 13 unfortunate innovators whose brilliant schemes brought about their own demise. Along the way, you’ll meet Henry Winstanley, who constructed a lighthouse in the English Channel that was swept out to sea during a storm … with its maker inside. You’ll also hear about stuntman Karel Soucek, who was pushed from the roof of the Houston Astrodome in a custom-designed barrel that landed off-target, fatally injuring its occupant.

And by the end of the episode, you just might be second-guessing your secret plan to quit your day job and become the world’s most daredevilish inventor.

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