Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wyoming Tea Party.

c. David Grim (taken 5/26/08)

Want to do an interesting little experiment? Google "Wyoming Tea Party". You'll receive thousands of hits regarding the modern-day tax protesters that seem to dominate mainstream media outlets, despite their rather modest numbers. This will likely surprise no one who's been paying attention to national politics during the Obama era. What I find interesting is that a movement that often seems so ill informed about history and modern governance should have been able to completely supplant the legacy of a previous Wyoming Tea party.

Esther Hobart Morris was a tough-as-nails frontierswoman (and first female justice of the peace anywhere on Earth) who held her own exclusive tea party, inviting among the other guests two candidates for the Wyoming territorial legislature who promised her to back women's suffrage if they were elected. The vote was officially given to the fairer sex when the governor signed off on the legislation in 1869. Seventy-year-old Louisa Ann Swain became the first woman ever to cast a vote in a public election.

Interestingly some historians have speculated that this official recognition of women's rights was inspired by the dearth of females in the West. Surely a move to enfranchise women would be an enticement to those living in the East, a region that had a glut of eligible ladies after the long and bloody Civil War. But even if the motivation for this historic empowerment was sex, it shouldn't tarnish the accomplishment of a wily older chick who acquired for her sisters unprecedented power. It's just too bad the legacy of these early Wyoming settlers has been eclipsed by a simple GOP-backed opposition group.

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