Women's Suffrage: Why the West First?

Women's suffrage succeeded in the West for reasons as diverse as the people and places of the West itself.

—From This Shall Be the Land for Women on the EDSITEment resource Women of the West Museum

The 19th Amendment, granting suffrage to women, was approved by Congress in 1920. It was over fifty years previously, however, that Wyoming had entered the Union as the first state to grant women full voting rights. The next eight states to grant full suffrage to women were also Western states: Colorado (1893); Utah and Idaho (1896); Washington (1910); California (1911); and Oregon, Kansas, and Arizona (1912). Why was the West first? Can students explain with a unified theory why Western states anticipated the rest of the nation by so many years on this issue? Or did "women's suffrage succeed… in the West for reasons as diverse as the people and places of the West itself?"

Focused on efforts in support of women's suffrage in Western states, this lesson can be used either as a stand-alone unit or as a more specialized sequel to the EDSITEment lesson, Voting Rights for Women: Pro- and Anti-Suffrage, which covers the suffrage movement in general. The latter lesson also contains activities and resources for learning how the movement to gain the vote for women fits into the larger struggle for women's rights in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Guiding Questions

Why were the Western states the first in the nation to grant full voting rights for women?

Learning Objectives

After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to: Discuss the particulars in the granting of full voting rights to women in several Western states

List some women especially involved in the Western suffrage movement and supply some important facts from their biographies

Take a stand, supported by historical evidence, as to whether or not a single theory can explain why the Western states were the first to grant full voting rights to women.