Some of the content on this website requires JavaScript to be enabled in your web browser to function as intended. While the website is still usable without JavaScript, it should be enabled to enjoy the full interactive experience.

Skip to Main Navigation. Each navigation link will open a list of sub navigation links.

Skip to Main Content

Women's Center

Historical Profiles

Wyoming has played an important role in the fight for equality for women, as it was the first state to fight for and win women's suffrage.  Many women from Wyoming have made positive contributions to society, not only statewide, but nationwide and even worldwide.


Louisa Ann Swain

Ms. Swain, born September 6, 1870, was the first woman in the United States to cast a vote.

Grace Raymond Hebard

Grace Raymond Hebard was a University of Wyoming faculty member, administrator, librarian, and Wyoming historian. In addition to her substantial work to ensure the rights of women, children, and immigrants, Hebard found time to build the University of Wyoming Library from scratch, act as its first librarian, and serve as the president of the Wyoming Library Association. She also served on the advisory board of the Wyoming Historical Association, which led to her involvement in mapping the Oregon Trail through Wyoming. She began a collection of Wyoming documents and artifacts, which included her own maps and publications.



June Etta Downey

Ms. Downey was one of the original psychologists to study personality scientifically. Her research on handwriting and other motor functions led to the development of the Downey Individual Will-Temperament Test, an early personality inventory. She headed the combined Department of Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Wyoming, the first woman to hold such a position at a state university. From 1923 to 1925 she served on the Council of the American Psychological Association, a rare appointment for a woman at that time. Although her contributions have become obscure, her work was influential in creating a basis for the study of personality and personality testing.



Nellie Tayloe Ross

Ross was nominated for governor of Wyoming on the Democratic ticket after the death of her husband in 1924.  She became the first female governor in the United States. Franklin D. Roosevelt later appointed her as the first woman director of the U.S. Mint in 1933.

Esther Hobart Morris

Esther Morris has become a symbol for the women's rights movement, and stories of her independent attitudes and support of women's issues are widely known. She led the fight for women's suffrage, and through her efforts, Wyoming passed a suffrage law that later became a model for later suffrage laws. She was also the first woman appointed to serve as justice of the peace in South Pass City in 1870.


Martha Canary (Calamity Jane)

Calamity Jane is famous for her many eccentricities which included dressing in men's clothing, and her fierce independence. In her later years, she appeared in Wild West shows, including the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show in Cody, Wyoming. She featured her riding and shooting skills during her performances; but her chronic fighting caused many problems and she was fired in 1901.  


Estelle Reel

Estelle moved to the Wyoming Territory in the mid-1880s and later became the first woman in the nation to be elected to the statewide office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1895. Sarah Bohl, a UW graduate student studying Reel, stated that "she was determined to hit the campaign trail with as much vigor and enthusiasm as the men who were running, and this showed people everywhere that women politicians could be equals with men." She earned a salary of $2,000, an amount that many thought was much too high for a female.

Isabel Jewell

Isabel was born in Shoshoni, Wyoming in 1907 and achieved immediate success on Broadway and later starred in over 100 films, including A Tale of Two Cities (1935), Lost Horizon (1937), Gone With the Wind (1939), and Northwest Passage (1940). She also appeared in several television shows such as Gunsmoke.



She was a Shoshone Indian who traveled with the famous Lewis and Clark expedition from 1804-1806. Her native knowledge and her relations with her own tribe proved invaluable to the explorers. There are many differing arguments and views about what happened to Sacajawea. She is believed by many to have lived out her life in Wyoming and died at an old age in 1884 in Fremont County on the Wind River Reservation.


Patricia MacLachlan

Although she has lived in Massachusetts most of her life, Patricia was born in Wyoming.  She is the author of numerous books, including Sarah, Plain and Tall.


Liz Byrd

Liz Byrd

Mrs. Byrd was educator in Cheyenne for 37 years and was also the first African American senator of Wyoming and is well loved throughout the region.

Of the many accomplishments in her career, the four-term state representative and two-term state senator spent nearly a decade persuading other state legislators to endorse a paid holiday on Martin Luther King Jr.s birthday. While the holiday was recognized in 1991, Wyoming refers to it as "Equality Day."


Share This Page:

Footer Navigation

University of Wyoming Medallion
1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071 // UW Operators (307) 766-1121 // Contact Us // Download Adobe Reader