On a Road Trip Through Wyoming, Celebrate a Legacy of Women’s Voting Rights

The number of female candidates running for U.S. office broke records in 2018. In 2019, Wyoming looks back on its own 150-year history of civic power; here’s where to go to celebrate the first state to have granted women the right to vote.

On a Road Trip Through Wyoming, Celebrate a Legacy of Women’s Voting Rights

Women have been movers and shakers in Wyoming’s civic and economic landscape since they earned the right to vote in 1869.

Courtesy of Veebar Cattlework

When it comes to empowering women, arguably no state in the United States has historically taken a more progressive position than Wyoming. In 1869, as a western territory, Wyoming granted women of all races the right to vote and to pursue public office—21 years before reaching statehood, and 51 years before the U.S. Congress ratified the 19th amendment. In later years, the appropriately nicknamed “Equality State” gave the nation its first female jurors, bailiff, justice of the peace, and governor.

Some say the motives for the pioneering stance stemmed from an effort to attract people to Wyoming, in order to grow the territory’s population to the 60,000 required for statehood. Others, such as attorney and State Senator Tara Nethercott, credit Wyoming’s progressiveness to the fact that “because we’re more independent and more rural . . . there was just that equal respect.” She added, “To survive, you had to pull your weight. They [men and women] were in it together . . . surviving in a new frontier.”

As Wyoming prepares to fete the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2019, travelers can get in on the action, too. Here’s how to plan a celebratory road trip around the state, including stops at essential historic sites, as well as some recommendations for women-led businesses that you’ll be psyched to support.


Take in Cheyenne on a trolley sightseeing tour.

Photo by Lindsay Lambert Day

Cheyenne: Where suffrage was signed into Wyoming law

Historic Stop
When the $300 million Wyoming Capitol Square Project is completed in summer 2019, visitors to the newly refurbished state capitol, which was built in 1888, will be able to step inside the former Territorial House Chamber, site of Wyoming’s constitutional convention. “All those debates [about the constitution’s ratification] took place in this room—including the debates on women’s suffrage,” Wendy Madsen, special projects manager for the Wyoming Legislative Service Office, told us on a sneak peek inside the construction site in September. The revitalized capitol is also home to a statue of Esther Hobart Morris, a women’s suffrage pioneer in Wyoming and the first female justice of the peace in the United States.

While You’re There
Pass through the capital city’s historic districts aboard a Cheyenne Trolley Tour; from May through September, daily guided tours depart from downtown’s Depot Museum and stop at spots of historic interest, such as the Wyoming State Museum and the Governors’ Mansion. At the Cowgirls of the West Museum, peruse an impressive collection of authentic cowgirl costumes and memorabilia, then hit up its emporium next door to shop everything western, from antiques to apparel.

Where to Eat
For perfectly cooked wood-fired pizza served with a side of history, stop for dinner at Bella Fuoco. The establishment runs an additional private dining venue just across the street, set within the former home of Esther Hobart Morris.

Where to Stay
Book one of 12 guest rooms at the Nagle Warren Mansion Bed and Breakfast. It was built by entrepreneur Erasmus Nagle in 1888, when Cheyenne was the wealthiest city per capita in the world, and later became the home of Senator Francis E. Warren in 1910.


Outfitter Hike Like a Woman takes adventurous female hikers on treks around Wyoming.

Courtesy of Edelman PR

Laramie: Site of the nation’s first female-cast vote in a general election

Historic Stop
On September 6, 1870, Louisa Swain became the first woman to vote in a general election in the United States. The mother of three cast her ballot just one block from what’s now the Wyoming House for Historic Women museum in Laramie. Open for tours from June through August and run by the Louisa Swain Foundation, the museum honors Swain and 12 other notable Wyoming women.

While You’re There
Beautifully preserved Victorian furnishings are among the highlights of a visit to the Laramie Plains Museum, housed in a mansion built in 1892 by banker and philanthropist Edward Ivinson and his wife, Jane. Author, Laramie historian, and docent Kim Viner leads encyclopedic tours of the property. For a shopping fix, stop by The Bent & Rusty, a female-owned artisans’ co-op stocked with furniture, clothing, and one-of-a-kind, salvaged antiques and decorative objects. To explore Wyoming’s stunning wilderness, hook up with Laramie-based Hike Like a Woman. Founder, owner, and U.S. Army veteran Rebecca Walsh and her intrepid team help female hikers connect for retreats and group hikes in Wyoming, in scenic areas like Medicine Bow Peak, about 40 miles outside of Laramie.

Where to Eat
Even if you’re an omnivore, grab a table at Sweet Melissa for lunch or dinner. Owner Melissa Murphy and her staff serve heaping portions of vegetarian and vegan comfort food, from gooey cashew queso to a knockout Cuban-style, mojo-marinated seitan.

Where to Stay
Unleash your inner cowpoke at Vee Bar Guest Ranch, a working, family-owned dude ranch (located about 30 minutes from downtown Laramie), where guests can hike, fish, and have a hand at cattle herding and trap shooting, among other activities.


The Mill House inn takes its name from its 19th-century building’s original use.

Courtesy of Mill House

Lander: Gateway to South Pass City

Historic Stop
With your base in Lander, make the 40-minute drive to South Pass City, a former gold mining town founded in 1867; its representative, William H. Bright, introduced the 1869 bill that led to women’s suffrage in the Territory of Wyoming. In 1870, Esther Hobart Morris was appointed South Pass City’s justice of the peace, in turn becoming the first woman in the still-forming country to hold public office. From May 12 through September 30, 2019, visitors can take self-guided tours of the old town/open-air museum, whose remaining buildings have been restored to historical accuracy. Guided tours of the town’s now-defunct Carissa Gold Mine resume on May 25, 2019.

While You’re There
Lander, with fewer than 8,000 residents, is a haven for creatives. One of the best places to take in the small city’s artistic spirit is the Lander Art Center (LAC), which hosts exhibitions and also offers classes and workshops. From November 1 through December 14, 2019, the LAC will host an exhibition devoted to women’s suffrage. While you’re in Lander, stop in Alchemy, a cooperative where you can shop for locally made art and gifts, too.

Where to Eat
If you’re in town on a Sunday and hungry for brunch, arrive early at The Middle Fork. Tables at Jenna Ackerman’s homey eatery are a hot commodity, thanks to her extensive menu that includes dishes like cassava French toast and three-grain brûlée.

Where to Stay
After purchasing the former Lander flour mill, which was built in 1888 and operated until the 1950s, Jill Hunter renovated the property and reopened it as the boutique Mill House inn. “In Lander, it’s all hotels,” Hunter noted, adding, “I wanted to create a place that feels like home.” With its original brick walls and exposed wood floors, you’ll wish it were yours.


Nicolaysen Art Museum in Casper displays contemporary works of art.

Photo by Jeremy Thies/Nicolaysen Museum

Casper: Where women are in business

Historic Stops
Although Casper wasn’t a hotbed of activity in the push for women’s suffrage, there’s still plenty of history to enjoy in this central Wyoming city. Make your way to the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, where interactive exhibits and detailed dioramas give insight into pioneer life. To experience the lifestyle firsthand, book a wagon tour with Historic Trails West; tours range from two hours to five days and follow parts of the old Oregon, California, and Pony Express trails.

While You’re There
With several prominent businesses owned and run by females, Casper is an example of how Wyoming continues to embrace women in the modern world. To sample craft cocktails made with playfully named spirits like Contortionist Gin, Ringleader Vodka, and Sword Swallower Rum, stop in Backwards Distilling Company, which 28-year-old Amber Pollack founded along with her family. Or for a cultural fix, wander around the contemporary Nicolaysen Art Museum; the six executive staff members here are women. The Nic, as it’s known locally, will host an all-female exhibition during its annual summer Nic Fest in 2019, and its executives have designated 2020 “The Year of the Woman,” which will bring four rotations of female art shows into its galleries throughout the year.

Where to Eat
For a quick pick-me-up, swing by Crescent Moon Coffee Stop, which is owned by 19-year-old Makenzie Rothfuss and offers coffee, tea, paninis, and bakery goods.

Where to Stay
With a lively bar where locals linger and a complimentary hot-breakfast buffet, the Ramkota Hotel & Conference Center is set within minutes of downtown Casper’s main attractions. Or to surround yourself with Wyoming’s more remote, wild scenery, check in to Sunburst Lodge Bed & Breakfast, located roughly 20 minutes south of downtown, on Casper Mountain. Innkeeper Nancy Yust happily serves up ideas for local, seasonal exploring—and an impressive homemade breakfast spread, too.

>>Next: Leaders of the Pack: How Women Are Transforming the Travel Landscape

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