On This Date in History: Esther Morris was a tall, robust women who had lived through some hard times. Like many women in the West in the mid 19th century, she was developed a sense of heartiness that all who tamed the frontier had to have to survive. Most of the people in the Wyoming Territory in 1869 were men. In fact, the ratio was about 6 to 1 in favor of males. Esther Hobart Morris came to Wyoming to join her husband and sons who had gone ahead of her and settled in South Pass City. Morris not only brought along her toughness, she also packed in her ideas and prior to the election for the new territorial legislature, she had a little tea party. The guests were H.G. Nickerson and William Blight who were running against each other for the same legislative post. She was pretty smart because she was was covering her bases. In her meeting with the political opponents, she got both to promise that if they were elected, they would introduce a bill that granted the vote to women. Bright won and, like a true gentleman, kept his word. Gentlemen in politics? Yes, they once existed.
Now, members of the legislature might not have had such egalitarian ideas when the supported the bill. See, the elected representatives were well aware that there were 6 times more men than women so they hoped that, but giving women the right to vote, that more ladies might be enticed into coming to the territory. I’m not sure if Ms. Morris used that as a reason for support, but at least the men figured it out for themselves. It’s the old adage, “sex sells” and it certainly worked in this case even if it was the men’s idea in the first place. But, Democrats only half heartedly supported the measure. They tended to support the measure only with the notion that the new Republican Governor, John Campbell, would veto it and thus hang himself and his party. Campbell was a young territorial governor but he wasn’t stupid. When the bill passed he gladly signed it into law on this date in 1869. Two years later, the Democrats tried to take away women’s suffrage with a new bill that would repeal the 1869 statute and even tried to pay Campbell $2,000 for his support. That would be equivalent to about $32,000 in 2008 dollars. But, Campbell declined with great firmness. Morris did not specifically single out Republicans or even give herself credit. Instead she said that the ability of women were “entirely indebted to men” in Wyoming for the acquisition of the right to vote.
Historically speaking then, let’s take a look at the score card. Democrats in Wyoming opposed women’s right to vote. Democrats in the South went to war in defense of slavery (if you think it was “states rights” then it was states rights to have slavery). Democrats in the South opposed the Civil Rights Bill in 1964. Republicans in the early 20th century supported big business but were thwarted by one of their own, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt. Now Republicans are portrayed as wanting to keep Americans from having health care. Things certainly change. But, the legacy of Esther Morris will never change and the role she played in the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. Click on the image to the right to find out how you can order the book, When Esther Morris Headed West: Women, Wyoming and the Right to Vote.
Weather Bottom Line: We had some flurry activity overnight. I know because I went outside and looked for our adopted cat, Paint Brush. He doesn’t seem to care about the weather because he’s always on the prowl for the ladies. I had the heat too high last night and was hot but it was plenty cold outside. As it is typical, there was a decoupling of the winds and the temperatures for most of the area was in the low 20′s. I think the official low was 22 but many places in Southern Indiana were in the teens. Everyone will just about be in the teens by early Friday morning and then high pressure moves to the east bringing a return flow. But, remember, the temperatures to the southwest are pretty chilly so we only get to the mid to uppoer 30′s by Friday afternoon. We move to the lower 40′s on Saturday but clouds will be increasing with the approach of another system coming through the flow from the southwest. Ahead of the little shortwave, the warm air will not exactly surge, but at least be building ahead so when the precipitation falls on Sunday, it will be rain with highs in the low to mid 40′s. And, while we stay chilly, we won’t be cold enough for snow through midweek though we could see a chance for rain carrying into Monday.