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.

The 10 Best Memorial Day 2020 Sales

iRobot,GoWise,Funko via Wayfair, Entertainment Earth
iRobot,GoWise,Funko via Wayfair, Entertainment Earth

The Memorial Day sales have started early this year, and it's easy to find yourself drowning in offers for cheap mattresses, appliances, shoes, and grills. To help you cut through the noise and focus on the best deals around, we threw together some of our favorite Memorial Day sales going on right now. Take a look below.

1. Leesa

A Leesa Hybrid mattress.
A Leesa Hybrid mattress.

Through May 31, you can save up to $400 on every mattress model Leesa has to offer, from the value-minded Studio by Leesa design to the premium Leesa Legend, which touts a combination of memory foam and micro-coil springs to keep you comfortable in any position you sleep in.

Find it: Leesa

2. Sur La Table

This one is labeled as simply a “summer sale,” but the deals are good only through Memorial Day, so you should get to it quickly. This sale takes up to 20 percent off outdoor grilling and dining essentials, like cast-iron shrimp pans ($32), a stainless steel burger-grilling basket ($16), and, of course, your choice of barbeque sauce to go along with it.

Find it: Sur la Table

3. Wayfair

KitchenAid Stand Mixer on Sale on Wayfair.

Wayfair is cutting prices on all manner of appliances until May 28. Though you can pretty much find any home appliance imaginable at a low price, the sale is highlighted by $130 off a KitchenAid stand mixer and 62 percent off this eight-in-one GoWise air fryer.

And that’s only part of the brand’s multiple Memorial Day sales, which you can browse here. They’re also taking up to 40 percent off Samsung refrigerators and washing machines, up to 65 percent off living room furniture, and up to 60 percent off mattresses.

Find it: Wayfair

4. Blue Apron

If you sign up for a Blue Apron subscription before May 26, you’ll save $20 on each of your first three box deliveries, totaling $60 in savings. 

Find it: Blue Apron

5. The PBS Store

Score 20 percent off sitewide at Shop.PBS.org when you use the promo code TAKE20. This slashes prices on everything from documentaries like Ken Burns’s The Roosevelt: An Intimate History ($48) and The Civil War ($64) to a Pride & Prejudice tote bag ($27) and this precious heat-changing King Henry VIII mug ($11) that reveals the fates of his many wives when you pour your morning coffee.

Find it: The PBS Store

6. Amazon

eufy robot vacuum.

While Amazon doesn’t have an official Memorial Day sale, the ecommerce giant still has plenty of ever-changing deals to pick from. Right now, you can take $100 off this outdoor grill from Weber, $70 off a eufy robot vacuum, and 22 percent off the ASUS gaming laptop. For more deals, just go to Amazon and have a look around.

7. Backcountry

You can save up to 50 percent on tents, hiking packs, outdoor wear, and more from brands like Patagonia, Marmot, and others during Backcountry's Memorial Day sale.

Find it: Backcountry

8. Entertainment Earth

Funko Pops on Sale on Entertainment Earth.
Entertainment Earth/Funko

From now until June 2, Entertainment Earth is having a buy one, get one half off sale on select Funko Pops. This includes stalwarts like the Star Wars and Batman lines, and more recent additions like the Schitt's Creek Funkos and the pre-orders for the upcoming X-Men movie line.

Find it: Entertainment Earth

9. Moosejaw

With the promo code SUNSCREEN, you can take 20 percent off one full-price item at Moosejaw, along with finding up to 30 percent off select items during the outdoor brand's summer sale. These deals include casual clothing, outdoor wear, trail sneakers, and more. 

Find it: Moosejaw

10. Osprey

Through May 25, you can save 25 percent on select summer items, and 40 percent off products from last season. This can include anything from hiking packs and luggage to outdoorsy socks and hats. So if you're planning on getting acquainted with the great outdoors this summer, now you can do it on the cheap.

Find it: Osprey

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

The Tallest Cemetery Monument in New Orleans Was Built Out of Spite

baldeaglebluff, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
baldeaglebluff, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Spite has motivated many construction projects, from a 40-foot-tall fence in California to an 8-foot-wide home in Massachusetts. But when it comes to pettiness, few structures can beat Moriarty Monument in New Orleans's Metairie Cemetery. Reaching 80 feet high, the memorial to Mary Moriarty was an excuse for her widower to show off his wealth to everyone who rejected him.

New Orleans is famous for its cemeteries, which feature above-ground mausoleums. The soil in the region is too wet and swampy to dig traditional 6-foot graves, so instead, bodies are interred at the same level as the living. The most impressive of these graveyards may be Metairie Cemetery on Metairie Road and Pontchartrain Boulevard. Built in 1872, it lays claim to the most above-ground monuments and mausoleums in the city, the tallest of which is the Moriarty Monument.

The granite tomb was commissioned by Daniel A. Moriarty, an Irish immigrant who moved to New Orleans with little money in the mid-1800s. It was there he met his wife, Mary Farrell, and together they started a successful business and invested their new income into real estate. The couple was able to build a significant fortune this way, but Moriarty struggled to shake off his reputation as a poor foreigner. The city's upper class refused to accept him into their ranks—something Moriarty never got over. After his wife died in 1887, he came up with an idea that would honor her memory and hopefully tick off the pretentious aristocrats at the same time.

By 1905, he had constructed her the grandest memorial he could afford. In addition to the towering steeple, which is a topped with a cross, the site is adorned with four statues at the base. These figures represent faith, hope, charity, and memory, while the monument itself is meant to be a not-so-virtuous middle finger to all those who insulted its builder.

Gerard Schoen, community outreach director for Metairie Cemetery, told WGNO ABC, “The reason Daniel wanted his property to be the tallest was so his wife could look down and snub every 'blue blood' in the cemetery for all eternity." More than a century later, it still holds that distinction.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]