California | Colorado | Hawaii
Kansas | New Mexico | Oregon
Texas | Utah | Washington | Wyoming
Click on a star or a state name for a unique
story of suffrage in the American West.
Women of the American West led the nation and the world into the struggle for female voting rights,
known as the "suffrage movement."
This remarkable suffrage success story began in 1869, when Wyoming Territory approved full and equal
suffrage for scarcely one thousand women. Contagious excitement for women's rights spread quickly
across the Rocky Mountain landscape. "This Shall be the Land for Women!" cheered western journalist
Caroline Nichols Churchill upon Colorado's stunning victory by popular vote in 1893.
Indeed, the West soon came to symbolize political equality and opportunity as a result of women's
enfranchisement--awakening the nation in its steady eastward march toward political freedom for women
and all citizens. Today in the year 2000, most of the world's women enjoy the right to vote, yet a
handful of nations still deny this basic right of citizenship.
State by state, western women won the battle for the ballot in popular elections and legislatures
along the West Coast from California to Alaska, in the plains of Kansas and South Dakota, and in the
deserts of Arizona and Nevada. On the eve of World War I, Jeannette Rankin of Montana won the first
woman's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916, before women in all but a few states
east of the Mississippi River could vote at all. Finally, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
made full women's suffrage the law of the land in 1920. Even so, this new land did not assure autonomy
or voting rights for America's first female inhabitants, Native Americans, and the indigenous peoples
of Hawaii and Alaska.
Women's suffrage succeeded in the West for reasons as diverse as the people and places of the West itself.
We have chosen ten suffrage states whose stories best illustrate the unique political, cultural, and
social character of each of the many western suffrage campaigns. Victory in some campaigns came early
whereas anti-suffrage forces in other states were exceedingly intractable. The legacy of western conflicts
over religious, racial, ethnic, class, and gender inequities infused the campaigns, especially in stubborn
suffrage holdouts like Texas, New Mexico, and Hawaii. Yet all of the western campaigns required
tremendous tenacity and political savvy of organized women in the region. Spurred on by the hope that
western politics would be more open to experimentation, suffrage leaders often reached across dividing lines
of place, race, ethnicity, creed, and economic circumstance to win both men and women to their cause.
The suffrage movement in the western United States dramatically expanded women's rights at home, at work,
and in the community. Let us explore how and why women of the West ventured out to achieve voting rights
and freedom for themselves and their daughters to come. Let us follow their quest to create a "land for women"
in the American West.