‘Equal rights’: Wyoming was first state to grant women the right to vote decades ahead of 19th Amendment

Annie Todd, Special to USA TODAY
Published 1:12 PM MDT Aug. 13, 2020 Updated 8:34 PM MDT Aug. 26, 2020

Women in Wyoming are filled with grit. Whether it's withstanding long, lonely winters on the homestead when your nearest neighbor is miles away or rising above the death of your husband and running a successful election campaign to become the first female governor like Nellie Tayloe Ross, Wyoming women have shown their strength, tenacity and leadership many years .

Wyoming has long celebrated that it was the first state in the nation to grant women the right to vote with no restrictions in 1869. It’s even in the state motto: “equal rights.” Months after the law was passed, women were allowed to serve on juries, and Louisa Swaine became the first woman to vote in Laramie. Esther Hobart Morris became the first woman in the nation to hold public office as a justice of the peace in South Pass City. For 150 years, women in Wyoming have proved time and time again that they have a seat at the table.

This year, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, when American women won the legal right to vote, the USA TODAY Network is naming 10 women from every state, plus the District of Columbia, as “Women of the Century.” These women have made significant contributions to their communities, states and country with documented achievements in areas like arts and literature, business, civil rights, education, entertainment, law, media, nonprofits and philanthropy, politics, science and medicine, and sports.

The 10 women below are a snapshot of the long list of women throughout the state who inspire those around them and their communities. Women who didn’t make the final list were dynamic, such as Nina McConigley, an award-winning writer focusing on cowboy culture and East Indians’ place in the American West, and Betty Woolsey, the captain of the first Olympic women’s ski team in 1936. It was almost impossible to choose a final group of women based on all that these women had accomplished.

Ann Redman has become a mentor for many young girls as the founder of the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference is a nonprofit dedicated to mentoring and educating young Latina women and girls.

Breaking stereotypes for Latinas living in the U.S. in the 1950s, Redman went to college and got an office job. Years later, Redman worked for the state of Wyoming, including being an International Trade Assistant and Protocol Officer. She worked for the state for 22 years and worked with many former governors. She was on the planning committee for the state’s centennial celebration. In 2017, Redman received the Woman of Influence Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wyoming Business Report.

To empower the Hispanic community in Wyoming, Redman also launched the Hispanic Organization for Progress and Education (HOPE), which supports Latinx students wishing to go to college with scholarships to Laramie County Community College.



Return of the Corn Mothers Pueblo Exhibition   
Sept. 15 – Nov 30, 2019 

Opening Reception: Friday Oct. 4, 2019, 6:00–8:00 pm. Light hors d’oeuvres will be served. 

Pueblo, Colorado – It has been  hailed as a love letter in pictures- a tribute to women of the Southwest. The Return of the Corn Mothers: Inspiring Women of the Southwest a traveling photographic exhibition of extraordinary women will induct eight new women from Southern Colorado   into the exhibition at the Pueblo City-County Library District Central Library, Rawlings Branch on Fri. Oct 4, 2019 at 6pm.

Sponsored in part by MSU Denver Department of Chicana/o Studies Journey Through Our Heritage program, and the Colorado Folk Arts Council the Return of the Corn Mothers Pueblo 2019 exhibition runs from Sept. 15 through Nov. 30, 2019. The show features 48 museum quality portraits and stories of multi-generational and multicultural women from the Southwest, whose lives and work embody the spirit of community. 

The opening reception is  scheduled for Oct. 4, 2019 (6:00 pm) at the Pueblo City-County Library District Central Library, Rawlings Branch, at 100 E. Abriendo Ave. in Pueblo.  The following Pueblo women will be  inducted as Corn Mothers: Dawn Di Prince, Charlene Garcia Simms, Rita Martinez, Elizabeth Aragon-Blanton, Alfiria Casaus Salazar, and Cynthia Ramu. 

The reception will include an opening blessing, photographic exhibition, refreshments, music by Denver Jazz great Freddy Rodriguez Jr., and oral histories by the new inductees. Other new inductees include Lisa Saldaña (Denver, Co.) and Ann Redman (Cheyenne, Wy). Ed Winograd, editor and Spanish translator of the printed Corn Mother Anthology, and Todd Pierson, exhibition photographer, will also present a brief history of the project. 

In addition, there will be a book signing by the Pueblo Corn Mothers whose portraits, bios, dichos (life sayings), philosophies, and short stories of women who influenced these extraordinary women appear in the 2019 Corn Mother anthology. 


The exhibition, and the anthology that goes with it, are based on the Pueblo myth of the Corn Mother, who represents growth, life, creativity, and the feminine aspects of the world. Todd Pierson, master photojournalist, has trekked for over a decade capturing the images of present-day Corn Mothers who have made significant contributions to their communities in the Southwest. This nationally recognized exhibit has traveled extensively to over a dozen universities and museums throughout Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming in the past decade. 

The exhibition began in 2007, partly funded by a Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute project grant. It originally included portraits and stories of eight women who were considered Corn Mothers in the Southwest. Motivated by the concern that as the region’s populations grew, the history and stories of significant women who formed the foundation of their communities would be forgotten, the exhibition expanded to 29 women after receiving a 2009 Colorado Endowment for the Humanities grant. In 2016, six new women from the San Luis Valley were inducted for the Adams State University exhibition. With the 2019 induction that includes six Pueblo, Co. women, the exhibition now boasts an impressive 48 astounding portraits, as well as a full-color printed anthology that includes the women’s pictures, biographies, philosophies, and life sayings, as well as a story by each honoree about her own Corn Mother (a woman who influenced and mentored her). 

Pueblo, Colorado Connection-The exhibition made a brief visit to El Pueblo History Museum from August 2016 to January 2017 as part of the Salt Creek Memory project. At the time, there were plans to eventually add women from the Pueblo area to the project. After a two-year planning process, in the fall of 2018 the Pueblo community was invited to nominate women from Pueblo who had made significant contributions to the community and embodied the Corn Mother spirit. Enough funds were raised to add six women from Pueblo to the existing exhibition and to design and print a new anthology. 

The expanded exhibition will be on display at Rawlings Branch Library from Sept. 15 until Nov. 30, 2019, with the opening reception on Oct. 4, 2019. The library’s free and public Dia de Los Muertos celebration in early November. will feature altars and art exhibitions by some of the Pueblo Corn Mothers. Tentative events that feature storytelling by the Pueblo Corn Mothers to highlight the extraordinary legacy that women from Pueblo have left to future generations will be announced. 

Dr. Ramon Del Castillo, professor and former chair of the MSU Denver Chicana/o Studies Department, has supported the project from its inception. He commented on the upcoming exhibition stating, “Women featured in the exhibit are caretakers of the world. It is important to hear the knowledge they have to share. It is an opportunity to honor women who give life and heal and nurture their families and communities. That this decade-long journey completes this phase of its journey in Pueblo is fitting, as it is here that the heart and spirit of the Southwest, in all its diversity, have converged for over a century.” 

Sponsors for this exhibition include the Pueblo City-County Library District, the Journey Through Our Heritage (JTOH) program of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Department of Chicana/o Studies, and the Colorado Folk Arts Council. All events are free and open to the public. 

For more details on Return of the Corn Mothers Pueblo, contact Renee Fajardo, efajard3@msudenver.edu, 720-329-0869, or Charlene Garcia Simms, Hispanic Resource Librarian at the Pueblo City-County Library District,charlene.simms@pueblolibrary.org, 719-553-0234. 

Other Corn Mother Events  
Thurs.  Oct. 3, 2019   1-3 pm OSC Room 104  CSU Pueblo ( 2200 Bonforte Blvd, Pueblo, CO 81001)

Inspiring Women of Southern Colorado:
A Community Dialogue on How Women Create Change

Sat. Oct. 12, 2019  •   2-3 pm   Corky Gonzales Library (1498 Irving St. Denver,Co.)
Corn Mothers Dia de los Muertos Workshop w/artist  Rita Wallace and Arlette Lucero

Sat. Nov.2,  2019. •. 2-3 pm – Corky Gonzales Library (1498 Irving St. Denver ,Co.)
Corn Mothers Dia de los Muertos Storytelling with Rita Wallace w/artist  Arlette  Lucero

Wed. Nov. 6, 2019  • 8 am-3 pm – MSU Denver Casa Mayan House Auraria Campus (1020 9th Street) 

Return of the Corn Mothers Healing Through Story and Spoken Word

8:00 AM- 9:15 AM  
Return of the Corn Mothers: Collecting Stories of Inspiring Women of the Southwest- Arelette Lucero -Todd Pierson -Rita Wallace- Ed Winograd  

9:30 AM-10:45 AM
An Air Force Latina Officer Speaks Out: Healing Trauma Through Story -Bella Ribera 

11:00 AM – 12:15 PM 
Return of the Corn Mothers: Collecting Stories of Inspiring Women of the Southwest
Arelette Lucero -Todd Pierson - Karen Gonzales-  Ed Winograd

12:30 PM – 1:45 PM
Myths and Folklore: Healing Through Story
Dr. Sandra Doe and Dr. Renee Fajardo 

2:00 PM-3:45 PM  
Spoken Word Rainbow Warriors &  Word To Power


Copyright Corn Mothers