By IKE FREDREGILL
Like many Wyoming towns, Laramie’s humble origins are founded upon construction of the first transcontinental railroad and its seedy labor camps dubbed Hell on Wheels. Walled in on four sides by grand mountain vistas and host to at least a dozen plains lakes as well as both the Big and Little Laramie rivers, it’s easy to imagine what attracted French Canadian fur trapper Jacques La Ramée to the valley that now bears his name.
The residents of Hell on Wheels saw it, too. Though the “Equality State” has a long list of forgotten railroad towns, Laramie flourished and later earned the nickname “Gem City of the Plains.” It is the home to Wyoming’s first territorial prison and the state’s only university. Perhaps more importantly, it is located on the historical forefront of the women’s suffrage movement as the location where Louisa Swain became the first woman in the world to cast a vote in a general election. As such, the city of Laramie is host to nearly a dozen museums, celebrating its vibrant history and role in civilizing the West.
(SUB) Wyoming House for Historic Women
The Wyoming House for Historic Women honors women who played crucial roles in both the state’s and the world’s history.Operated by the Louisa Swain Foundation, and a board comprised of members nationwide, the Wyoming House was initially created as a museum to educate the public about the foundation’s namesake.
Over the years, the museum grew to represent several of Wyoming’s leading women such as Eliza Stewart, Martha Symons Boies and Nellie Taylor Ross.
Louisa Gardner Swain was the first woman in the United States to cast a ballot under laws granting women and men equal voting rights on, Sept. 6, 1870. Fifty years after Swain cast the first vote, the 19th Amendment, which granted women throughout the U.S. the right to vote was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920. Eliza Stewart was the first woman subpoenaed to serve on a court jury. Stewart was Laramie’s first school teacher, and her notice for jury duty was delivered in March of 1870. Stewart also established Laramie’s first library. Martha Symons Boies was the first woman in the U.S. appointed as a bailiff.
The museum also boasts an extensive collection of Nellie Taylor Ross’ items. Ross was not only Wyoming’s first female governor, but the first woman in the U.S. to be sworn in as governor. Located in Laramie’s historic downtown district, the Wyoming House offers visitors an opportunity to review artifacts and correspondence from some of the state’s most influential women.