May Preston Slosson (1858 – 1943) was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in the United States, likely the first “lady prison chaplain” in the world, and a poet with roots in Wyoming history. Born in New York and raised in Kansas, Slosson lived all over the country before moving with her husband to the city of Laramie towards the end of the 19th Century. There, she organized educational Sunday afternoon lectures for inmates at the Wyoming Territorial Prison, and promoted the institution of prison reform. Slosson became prison chaplain in 1899 at the fervent request of the inmates. This one-of-a-kind feat was featured in Wide World Magazine shortly upon her promotion:
“The Rev. Mrs. May Preston Slosson, of Laramie Penitentiary, Wyoming, is the only lady prison chaplain in the world, and possesses an extraordinary influence over her convict flock. She has already averted one dangerous mutiny, and has done much to ameliorate the lot of the prisoners.”
She served as chaplain and prisoner advocate until Slosson and her family moved to New York in 1903. Mrs. Slosson considered herself spoiled by the rich rights available to women in Wyoming, and she and her husband became leading advocates in the fight for nationwide women’s suffrage.
In 1920, Slosson published a book of poems titled A Quiet Garden, in which much of the content was inspired by or was directly about Wyoming.
See the accompanying images to read more about May Preston Slosson and to read a glimpse of her work. We found these tidbits in Wyoming Newspapers.