PIONEERS AT THE POLLS
Woman Suffrage in the West
In the United States, the achievement of woman suffrage began on the frontier. The first territories and states to grant women full voting rights were Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho. Seven of the next eight states that did so were also west of the Mississippi. Before the Nineteenth Amendment passed, giving all American women the ballot, most western states had already passed referenda or amendments, as had the territory of Alaska. The pattern was so marked that the editors of Literary Digest, commenting on rising pro-suffrage sentiment in 1912, reversed an old slogan, announcing, “Eastward the Star of Suffrage Takes Its Way.”
Few leaders of the national suffrage movement had expected this regional pattern to emerge. Their organizations were based in the Northeast. The Woman's Journal hailed from Boston, and it carried ward-by-ward accounts of that city's suffrage campaigns beside shorter reports from the distant Plains, Rockies, and Pacific coast. Western suffragists often expressed a sense of isolation from the national movement. Though Susan B. Anthony traveled tirelessly in the West, the area was vast and the priorities of its women often unsettling to her. Meanwhile, other strategists lavished money and attention on New England or on lobbying Congress directly for a federal amendment. For many, the West was a low-stakes laboratory where suffragists could try out new tactics and, in case of victory, advertise the results to voters back east.
The striking regionalism of early suffrage victories has posed a problem for historians. Following the arguments of Frederick Jackson Turner,