Created By: University of Wyoming
Wyoming's 1869 territorial constitution granted “every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in the territory, may, at every election to be beholden under the law thereof, cast her vote.” The first election including women was held on September 6, 1870. This plaza honors Louisa Swain, the first woman to legally cast a vote under that suffrage act. It preceded national suffrage by 50 years.
Swain was born in Virginia in 1801. She had a difficult life as she was orphaned early on, but she married, lived in several locations through the midwest and northeast, and had her own thriving family. Swain's son moved to Laramie soon after the town's founding in 1868, and the elder Swains followed soon after. On the morning of the election, Swain is said to have gone on her domestic errands and voted along the way.
As we recall it, Swain's vote was both remarkable and unremarkable. As a figure of public memory, she is celebrated in Wyoming yet generally unknown to other parts of the USA. Each September, the Plaza hosts a commemorative re-enactment of a bonneted town elder retracing Swain dropping her vote in the ballot box. Folks also pay Swain homage on our present election days. She reminds visitors that the power of the vote is for all of us.
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Contributed by Nancy Small
This point of interest is part of the tour: Public Memory: Laramie & the University of Wyoming