Tucked next to the Wind River Range, you’ll find the lively historic town that paved the way for women to receive the right to vote in 1869.

In the heady Gold Rush days in South Pass City, Wyo., where 12 saloons, a collection of hotels and two breweries sprouted up almost overnight, legislator William Bright had a revolutionary idea: women in Wyoming should have the right to vote.

A saloon keeper and mine owner, Bright championed a bill for women’s suffrage in 1869, and it passed in the territorial legislature that year, making Wyoming the first government in the world to offer women full voting rights. It was also the first year of the territorial legislature.

Gold Rush Days at South Pass City in Wind River Country

Gold Rush Days at South Pass City

Today, the historic mining town is a three-hour drive from Grand Teton National Park. You can drive the Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Pathway on Hwy. 28 to visit South Pass City State Historic Site, a vibrant historic ghost town with 40 restored structures and interpretive exhibits nestled along the banks of Willow Creek. As you explore it and pan for gold, you may find yourself wondering what compelled Bright to push for female voting rights 50 years before the federal government did so.

Some say Bright’s wife convinced him to introduce the bill, stressing the equal rights for the other half of humanity. While recognizing the tough, pioneer women on Wyoming’s wind-swept frontier as equals certainly was a motivating factor, there was something else. In 1869, more than 6,000 men lived in the territory, grossly outnumbering the 1,000 women. They needed wives.

Ester Morris, first female Justice of the Peace in the U.S., Vice President of the National American Woman Suffrage Assoc., National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, Statuary in the U.S. Capitol

Ester Hobart Morris statuary in the U.S. Capitol

After receiving the right to vote, women quickly took on leadership roles. In South Pass City, 55-year-old Esther Hobart Morris became the nation’s first female justice of the peace in 1870. Down the road in the historic gold mining town of Atlantic City, you can spot bullet holes in the ceiling of the Atlantic City Mercantile, providing a window into Morris’ job listening to civil cases amid a period of lawlessness. As you dine in the mercantile-turned-restaurant-and-bar, you’ll also see mining tools, lanterns and historic photos hanging from the walls.

Beyond South Pass City, explore the nearby towns of Lander, Riverton, Dubois, Hudson, Shoshoni and Wind River Indian Reservation nestled against the majestic Wind River Mountain Range. Women here continue Morris’ legacy, playing critical roles in their communities. Take, for instance, Jessie Allen, ranch manager of Allen’s Diamond 4 Ranch, and Sarah Woltan, owner of Bear Basin Adventures, both of whom offer all-women’s horse-packing, yoga and fly-fishing adventures.

Chef Jenna Ackerman, who owns The Middle Fork restaurant in Lander, and is committed to serving sustainably raised, fresh food. You can take a knifemaking workshop in Riverton from Audra Draper, the country’s first female master bladesmith. You may even catch a workshop with Echo Klaproth, a fourth-generation rancher, writer, teacher and ordained minister from Shoshoni who was named Wyoming’s sixth Poet Laureate in 2013.

Or see women performing traditional Native American dance styles on Tuesday nights at the Wind River Hotel & Casino and Wednesday nights at the Museum of the American West.

By the Numbers: Women in Wyoming



Women receive the right to vote in Wyoming Territory


Esther Hobart Morris becomes first female Justice of the Peace in the nation in South Pass City, Wyo.


Wyoming becomes a state


The 19th Amendment passes, giving women the right to vote throughout the United States

Learn more at windriver.org.


Buffalo Bill Cody c1892

Of Cattle and Queens: Buffalo Bill Cody

The founder of Cody, Wyoming called Mark Twain a friend, entertained Queen Victoria, and employed Annie Oakley in his Wild West show.

Dan Wenk

Q&A with Yellowstone's Superintendent Dan Wenk

Superintendent Dan Wenk reminisces about the last century and shares thoughts about the challenges and opportunities for the next century.

Chief-Washakie, Shoshone Indians

Chief Washakie: Great Leader of the Shoshone people

Chief Washakie earned a reputation that lives on to this day-fierce warrior, skilled politician and diplomat, great leader of the Shoshone people, friend to white men.


John Colter - The Mystery of the Stone and the Legend of the Run

Is the stone a fake or does it mean Colter was the first Yellowstone explorer. Also read about Colter's run from Blackfeet Indians which inspired a movie.

Rebecca Walsh, Owner of Basecamp outdoor store in Laramie, Wyo.

Locals in Laramie

On your way to or from Rocky Mountain National Park or Yellowstone, stop in the Laramie area to stretch your legs. Three enterprising locals share tips on where to go in Laramie and what to do.

Philetus Walter Norris in his trapper clothing

Yellowstone's First Park Superintendents

Horace Albright, Nathaniel Langford, and Philetus Norris were essential to the success of Yellowstone National Park, and quite the characters.

Last Stand Hill (named for Custer's Last Stand), over the mass grave of the Seventh Cavalry soldiers, U.S. Indian Scouts, and other personnel killed in battle. Earlier interpretations were largely mono-cultural, honoring only the U.S. Army's perspective, with headstones marking where each fell.

Commemorate the Battle of the Little Bighorn on the Way to Yellowstone

At the battlefield, retrace steps of Indian warriors and U.S. soldiers. At the Crazy Horse Memorial, see the world’s largest mountain-carving-in-progress.

Releasing a Sawtooth wolf pup into the Nez Perce acclimation pen, February 1997.

1995 Reintroduction of Wolves in Yellowstone

The history of wolves in Yellowstone - what has happened to the environment when they were eradicated and when they were returned Jan 12, 1995.

Early Yellowstone visitors at Handkerchief Pool (1923)

100 Years in Yellowstone - Then and Now

Since the National Park Service took over park management, Yellowstone has changed profoundly. Here's how things looked then and now.