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Public Statements

National Women's History Museum

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mrs. LUMMIS. I thank the gentlelady from New York and the gentlelady from Tennessee. Along with the gentlelady from Ohio, and someone we will hear from shortly, the gentlelady from Florida, it is an honor to be with you tonight.

I represent the State that is officially known as the ``Equality State,'' and that is for this reason: Wyoming is the first government in the world to continuously and fully grant women the right to vote.

Most people think that had to have been some State associated with the Eastern intelligentsia, but here is the real story.

In the Wyoming Territory, the legislature passed into law on December 10, 1869, a measure stating:

That every woman at the age of 21 years, residing in this territory, may, at every election, to be holden under the laws thereof, cast her vote.

This Suffrage Act granted women in the Wyoming Territory the right to vote with full civil and judicial equality with men.

The first woman to cast her ballot pursuant to those rights was Louisa Swain. She voted in Laramie on September 6, 1870, becoming the Nation's first woman voter under laws guaranteeing absolute political equality with men.

Now think about that. That is 1870. That is 50 years before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She was a 70-year-old woman.

Here is the account of her vote in the Laramie Daily Sentinel:

It is comforting to note that our first woman voter was really a lady ..... of the highest social standing in the community, universally beloved and respected. The scene was in the highest degree interesting and impressive. There was just too much good sense in our community for any jeers or neers to be seen on such an occasion.

And so it was. Wyoming became the inspiration for the rest of the country.

Wyoming didn't become a State until 1890, and that brought upon the codification of this suffrage right through the ratification of the new Wyoming State constitution.

The Congress of the United States--the very Congress in which we stand--threatened to withhold

statehood from Wyoming because we had granted women the right to vote. The Territory's legislators replied with a telegram stating that Wyoming would remain out of the union a hundred years rather than join without women's suffrage.

So President Benjamin Harrison, deferring to the wiser Wyoming territorial legislature, on July 10, 1890, signed into law a bill admitting Wyoming into the union and recognizing it as the Nation's Equality State.

Once again, events of the first woman voter happened in Wyoming 50 years before every woman in this country received the same rights. Consequently, Wyoming has an exemplary early history.

We have the first woman elected to statewide office in the Nation in 1804. She was Wyoming's superintendent of public instruction, Estelle Reel.

Why does that matter? Because she died and her estate and her belongings are currently in a little tiny, neglected museum in a town in the district belonging to the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Doc Hastings, giving our chairman, who is going to hold a hearing later in this Congress, pride and reason to help us support obtaining Estelle Reel's property for this museum.

In 1870, Esther Hobart Morris from South Pass, Wyoming, was the first woman to hold judicial office in the world.

The first women delegates to both the national Democratic and the national Republican convention came from Wyoming.

We had the first woman elected Governor in the United States in 1925. She became the first woman director of the U.S. Mint.

By the way, Estelle Reel later became the first woman national superintendent of Indian schools.

The list goes on and on. We had the first woman bailiff and the first woman grand juror.

Wyoming's history is illustrious. That is why we are called the Equality State. We want very much to share that history with the rest of the country, and thanks to the gentlewomen here tonight who are leading the effort to share women's history in this country, that may become a reality.

I want to thank and salute the gentlewomen from New York and Tennessee who are leading this Special Order tonight and are leading this effort to create a national women's history museum. Wyoming looks forward to being a proud contributor. I look forward to being at the ribbon-cutting. I want to send so much history to you and share it with the people of this country. I am so delighted that you are leading this effort.

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