Though I write historical fiction, I try to make my novels as factually accurate as I can. There is always a ton of research that goes into any work, even if some things stayed pretty constant for a given time period, because there are exceptions that apply to certain places.
I’ve always loved Wyoming, because to me it holds the heart of the west in an era where minding your own business was shared by all. That egalitarian independence is fertile ground for heroes wanting to hide from their pasts, and for strong-minded heroines who weren’t content to be a man’s ornament.
Throughout the world, women by and large were regarded as their husband’s property. They couldn’t vote, couldn’t hold a government office, and in most places, they couldn’t own or inherit property. The latter was a problem Esther Hobart Slack faced when she was widowed in 1845 and, under Illinois law, she was unable to inherit her husband’s property. Though the successful milliner wasn’t depicted as a rabid woman’s suffragette, Esther went on to become a champion for woman worldwide. She married John Morris, and traveled with him to South Pass City, Wyoming where he attempted to make a fortune in the gold mines. A greater treasure awaited Esther, for when a political office became vacant in the mining town in 1869, then Territorial Secretary Edward Lee appointed her as the Justice of the Peace of South Pass City. Esther was the first woman in the world to hold such an office. During her tenure, she never had a case repealed.
Many credit Secretary Lee with opening the door to women’s rights for he was a prominent suffragist. At a tea party hosted by Esther Morris and attended by legislators and forward-thinking citizens, the seed was sown to give women equality in the Wyoming Territory.
Many viewed the proposed bill as a lure for women to settle in Wyoming, for men outnumbered women six to one. Those winters get mighty long and lonely!
Later that year, Senator William Bright drafted the final bill titled “An Act to Grant to the Women of Wyoming Territory the Right of Suffrage and to Hold Office.”
Those some opposed it, nobody fought to stop it. The equality bill passed and became law, which surprised some in the Wyoming Territory and shocked the world.
While a national conference was taking place in Washington, DC regarding women’s rights, Wyoming women were already making history.
Mary Symons became the first woman bailiff in the world in 1870.
Louisa Swain became the world’s first woman voter under “laws guaranteeing absolute political equality.”
Eliza Boyd was the first woman selected to serve on a grand jury in 1870.
And the city of Jackson, Wyoming became the first city in the world entirely governed by women in 1920.
Settings are very important in our novels. The heroine in my second novel was a woman who’d escaped one man’s oppression and now wanted to run her guest ranch and be afforded respect. I hope you’ll read One Real Man and agree that Wyoming was the perfect setting for Josie’s and Gil’s road to romance.
Thanks to the Petticoats and Pistols gals for having me back. I’ll draw a name from the comments and give away an autographed copy of One Real Man.