Nothing educates like travel does. Learning history from a textbook, or even through video, can’t match the opportunity for a child to be immersed in an environment where they can experience history firsthand.
That’s why the Wyoming Office of Tourism is leveraging the fact that 2019 is the 150th anniversary of Wyoming women’s suffrage, and is inviting families to visit the state, the first in the U.S. to permanently guarantee women their inherent right to vote and hold office.
Indeed, Wyoming’s passage of women’s suffrage legislation came 50 years before Congress passed the 19th Amendment on June 4, 1919. In fact, Wyoming calls itself “The Equality State,” because of many firsts in guaranteeing equal rights to its residents.
“Though it surprises first-time visitors to Wyoming that women’s suffrage began in our state, repeat visitors do not seem so surprised. We have a lot of firsts in this state of pioneering women,” said Piper Singer, Public Relations & Media Manager of Travel Wyoming
For example, in 1870, Louisa Swain cast the first women’s vote in a general election and Esther Hobart Morris was the first woman appointed as a Justice of the Peace. In 1924, Wyoming made U.S. history again, electing Nellie Tayloe Ross the first woman governor.
But this year, Wyoming is especially focused on December 10, 1869, the date when John Campbell, governor of what was then the Wyoming Territory, approved the first law in U.S. history explicitly guaranteeing women the right to vote.
“Visitors have had an overwhelmingly positive response regarding Wyoming’s 150th anniversary celebrations of women’s suffrage,” said Singer. “Often times, they share stories about strong western women from their families or friends in order to relate with the anniversary.”
Media attention grows
Visiting the state capitol in February, Times columnist Sebastian Modak wrote about how Wyoming informed Congress via telegram that joining a country that didn’t afford women the right to hold office and vote didn’t sit well with its citizens.
“The telegram reportedly said something along the lines of: ‘We will remain out of the Union 100 years rather than come in without the women,’” Modak wrote. During his time in Cheyenne, the state capitol, he said “Everyone I spoke to, from legislators to museum curators, viewed the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Wyoming as an opportunity to shine a light on the state’s significance for women’s rights.”
During his stay, Modak visited the Cheyenne Depot Museum, where there is a bronze statue of a woman staring into the horizon. “There’s another statue of a woman, by the sculptor Veryl Goodnight, leaning on a wagon wheel outside the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum; it’s titled ‘No Turning Back’ and honors the earliest homesteaders.
At the Wyoming State Museum, you can see a flag given to the new state ‘from the Women of Wyoming,’ and a letter from British suffragists congratulating the women of Wyoming on their victory,” Modak writes in his article.
So much for families to see and learn
This year, the tourism office’s website, social media channels, and public relation efforts have combined to market and advertise women’s suffrage events throughout the state.
“We are promoting the anniversary heavily as we feel it is an important aspect of Wyoming’s history,” said Singer. “Some of these efforts include featured content on women throughout Wyoming, a new hashtag (#ThatsWYWomen) and trips for media around Wyoming that familiarize them with women’s history.”
In general, Wyoming appeals to families for various reasons. The state has world-known dinosaur museums and dig sites which offer excellent and engaging learning opportunities. Also, Wyoming’s wide-open spaces and western history provide thrills for the young mind.
“Because of Wyoming’s family thrills, we know that locals and visitors are excited for the anniversary too,” Singer said. “They have resources to share with their children that help them understand the women’s suffrage anniversary. For starters, parents often visit our kids page with their children which has a student guide. The students guide provides information about women’s firsts in Wyoming.”
Further, The Wyoming Department of Education partnered with the Governor’s Council for the Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Celebration and the League of Women Voters in Wyoming to create a coloring book, shared with all of Wyoming’s third graders and made available at other locations within Wyoming. The coloring book highlights historically significant Wyoming women, like Esther Hobart Morris and Martha Symons, and their achievements.
“We would love to see FTA Travel Advisors and Media Center members support Wyoming’s anniversary through word-of-mouth and online. Our hope is that as many people as possible can learn about the history of women’s suffrage and the communities in Wyoming that support women’s suffrage,” Singer said.
Celebrations will occur through December 10, 2019 and beyond, including September 6, 2020, which marks the 150thanniversary of Louisa Swain, the first woman casting her vote in Laramie, Wyoming.
Communities around Wyoming have been hosting special events in celebration of women’s suffrage. Examples include Suffragette High Tea in Cheyenne on the second Thursday of every month, the Proud Wyoming Women Retreat in Rock Springs in September and a film opening event for the anniversary itself.
More events can be found here.
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