Women’s History Month: Esther Hobart Morris



Portrait of Esther Hobart Morris from Women of Wyoming by Mrs. Alfred H. (Cora M.) Beach.

We would be remiss in letting Women’s History Month slip away without a mention of Esther Hobart Morris. In her 1927 book, Women of Wyoming, Cora M. Beach writes that Morris “…has rightfully been called the ‘Mother of Woman Suffrage.’” Morris was one of the earliest and most prominent advocates for granting women the right to vote.

The story goes that in 1869 she held a tea party in South Pass City, invited both candidates for the legislature, and held their feet to the fire about giving women the right to vote. Wyoming became the first government in the world to enact women’s suffrage that same year.

Morris is one of the many women featured in Women of Wyoming, held here at the State Library and at many other Wyoming libraries. Flipping through its pages, you can see the stories and achievements of the women who called the Equality State home.

In 1870, Morris was appointed Justice of the Peace at South Pass City, the only woman in the world at that time to hold a judicial office.

When Wyoming gained statehood in 1890, she spoke at the celebration: “On behalf of the women of Wyoming, and in grateful recognition of the high privilege of citizenship that has been conferred upon us, I have the honor to present to the state of Wyoming this beautiful flag. May it always remain the emblem of our liberties, ‘and the flag of the union forever.’” See more in the Wyoming Statehood Celebration online exhibit.

Beach wrote, “The writer is at a loss to understand why some splendid monument to the memory of Esther Morris has not been erected by the Women of Wyoming. Not merely a tablet of bronze or stone, but something that would typify the spirit of progressiveness exemplified by this woman of undaunted courage.”

Cora Beach lived long enough to see that splendid monument. Esther Hobart Morris is now honored with a bronze statue standing proudly in front of the Wyoming State Capitol building, with its twin placed in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. in 1960.

You can learn more about women’s suffrage in Wyoming in our Women’s Suffrage in Wyoming LibGuide, and see more details about the Wyoming Statehood Celebration in our online exhibit. Our digital collections also offer many details, such as the actual legislation in the Wyoming Legislation Database, and firsthand accounts in Wyoming Newspapers. And, of course, you can find Women of Wyoming on our shelves and at other libraries.

 

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