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  • Writer's pictureAli Assareh

Today in Legal History: First place to recognize women's universal right to vote (Dec 10, 1869)

Today, on Dec 10, 1869, Wyoming became the first jurisdiction in the world to recognize women's universal right to vote.

Much of the writing around this historic event focuses on the role of the all-male Wyoming legislature and governor.

But the true hero, in my opinion, is Esther Morris. Esther was a veteran women's rights activist; a New Yorker who settled in Wyoming by way of Chicago.

Esther saw new opportunities to expand suffrage in the West: Unlike in the East, here women and men fought side by side for survival.

Esther’s strategy was simple but brilliant (Lyndon Johnson employed a similar strategy nearly a century later for the Voting Rights Act): she'd invite both Democrat and Republican candidates to her home for tea, and get them to pledge support if they won.

One of those candidates eventually authored the suffrage bill.

Esther went on to become the first female judge in the US. Later in life, in a reflective statement that echoes the challenges our unequal society continues to force upon women, and the wonderful humility of many women, she said, “Circumstances have transpired to make my position as a justice of the peace a test of woman’s ability to hold public office. I feel that my work has been satisfactory.”

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