We recently honored Women’s Equality Day, which celebrates the passing of the 19th amendment in 1920, granting (most) women in the United States the right to vote. What some may not realize is that prior to 1920, some parts of the country had already granted women the right to vote. In honor of September 6th being the anniversary of the first woman to legally vote in the United States after our independence, let’s have a closer look at her monumental step in the advancement of women’s suffrage.
In 1869, twenty years prior to becoming an official state, the territory of Wyoming granted women the right to vote. They were the first government in the US to do so, and this led to Wyoming being known as the Equality State.
Early on the morning of September 6th, 1870, Louisa Ann Swain rose, put on her bonnet, apron, and shawl, and walked into town, where it’s said that she was going to purchase some supplies. She passed by the polling station, and decided that she would vote while she was out. When she arrived at the polling location it was not yet open, but the officials inside saw her waiting and invited her in to cast her historic ballot.
At 69 years of age at the time that she voted, Louisa Swain was described as “a gentle white-haired housewife, Quakerish in appearance.” Not long after the election, she moved out of Wyoming, but her memory lives on as the first woman to legally vote in a United States general election. A statue was built in her honor, and stands in front of the Women’s History House in Laramie, Wyoming. In 2008, September 6th was recognized by Congress as Louisa Ann Swain Day.
If you would like to learn more about women’s accomplishments in U.S. history, check out Timeline of Women’s Achievements.