The Struggle for Suffrage in the Trans Mississippi West

Publication Year



History, American West, suffrage, women, voting rights


Political History | United States History | Women's History


Women in America needed the right to vote in order to further themselves in a male dominated world, and expand and accomplish their own political agenda. By 1848 suffragists had two arguments: suffrage was a natural and inalienable right of both sexes, and suffrage was the key to legal, economic, and cultural equality for women. Women in the trans Mississippi West were the first to receive suffrage, while women in eastern states did not receive it until the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. This is an interesting contradiction since the suffrage movement began in the East and was a strong force there, but still quite logical. In the Wyoming Territory, women secured the right to vote in 1869, and by 1914 women had gained the right to vote in 10 out of the 11 western states. As in the East, the suffrage movement was begun by women who had an undying desire to improve women's standings in society. The suffrage movement in the West was more effective because of the different views of women, as well as those held by others about women, and the support they gained from within their own communities. As women crossed the plains in wagon trains and homesteaded, they challenged the 'Victorian norms', about propriety, which argued that women should be seen and not heard, and were able to help men more easily accept suffrage. In the East women were still very traditional, following these 'Victorian norms'. The divisions between men and women were still sharply defined, whereas in the West, women and men crossed back and forth across these lines frequently, as it was a necessity in order to make the great journey across the plains and to homestead.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status


Department 2 Awarding Honors Status

Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

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