What Does “The Equality State” Know About Gender Equality?… Very Little, Actually

Anne Marie Wells
6 min readMay 29, 2022
Adapted photo originally by Pascal Bernardon on Unsplash

Wyoming earned its nickname, “The Equality State” for priding itself on being the first state to join the Union that allowed (white) women to vote and hold office. Women’s suffrage in Wyoming passed on December 10, 1869 while it was still considered a U.S. territory, and on September 6, 1870, Louisa Swain of Laramie, Wyoming became the first woman to cast a legal electoral ballot.

In 1924, Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming became the first female governor elected to office after the former governor, who was also her husband, passed away. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where I lived on and off for eight years, touted the first ever fully female town council elected in 1920. Mayor Grace Miller and the four female town council members — the so-called “Petticoat Rulers” — then appointed women to hold all the other municipal positions in Jackson Hole including the first ever female Town Marshal — who was only 22 years old at the time of her appointment **eye bulging emoji**.

Photo by MARIOLA GROBELSKA on Unsplash

And since a century ago, things have not much progressed in terms of gender parity. As of 2021, 17.8% of possible state congress seats were held by women, ranking Wyoming 45th in the country for state female representation. For municipal female representation, Wyoming ranks 47th with only 17% of mayoral seats and 19% of county commissioner seats being held by women.

But Wyoming is still having “Female Firsts” — not for the whole country, but for the state. One hundred fifty years after being “granted the right” to be elected to and hold public office, last year in 2021 Cynthia Lummis was sworn in as Wyoming’s first ever female Senator. (And by the way, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia still all have never had a single female senator in their entire history.)