Wyoming's territorial legislators passed the bill for a variety of reasons, including some that recognized the role of women in border settlements; others that hoped to strengthen the conservative voting force; and still others that hoped that more women would settle in the country if the right to vote was established because there were so few. When the federal government took control of Wyoming in 1890, it too allowed women to vote.
Women's suffrage was first introduced into Wyoming during the 1889 legislative session. The bill passed the Senate but not the House. It was revived the following year and again failed. In 1895, another attempt was made but this time it was defeated by one vote. Women did not get the right to vote in Wyoming until they were given that right by law at the state's first annual session of the legislature in 1897. The law was passed over President McKinley's veto. He had recommended that the vote be granted to women regardless of nationality or residence status.
In the years after Wyoming became a state, many women worked to obtain their right to vote. Some traveled hundreds of miles to do so in person. Others sent letters and messages through friends and relatives who lived in other states where the right already existed. Still others lobbied their local politicians to support legislation granting them the vote. A number of incidents also occurred throughout the state where women were able to register to vote or where officials declined to challenge their right to vote.
Wyoming territory lawmakers adopt and sign a measure allowing women the right to vote, motivated more by a desire for free publicity than a dedication to gender equality. Western states led the country in supporting women's suffrage, although several of them had questionable motivations. Wyoming was one of the last territories to grant women the right to vote, doing so in 1870. It was not until almost 10 years later that every state in the Union granted women the right to vote.
The movement to give women the right to vote began in earnest in 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the American Woman's Suffrage Association. The following year, the New York State Legislature passed a law giving women the right to vote on local issues but not federal elections. In the fall of 1866, Lucy Webb Hayes became the first woman elected to public office when she was chosen mayor of St. Louis. But her term only lasted six months since she did not fulfill the requirement that mayors be residents of the city they served. In fact, no female mayor was ever re-elected. In the spring of 1869, Wyoming became the first state to pass legislation granting women the right to vote on all matters except those relating to office holding.
Stanton and Anthony were among the leaders of the movement who traveled to Cheyenne to lobby Congress to pass a national amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.