When I chose Wyoming for the setting of Dreams of Gold, a western historical novella, I did so because WY is known as the equality state. Even before the territory gained admission to the United States, legislation was passed in 1869 that granted women the right to vote, serve on juries, and hold elected office. The territorial document was the first time a government had granted “female suffrage” and became law upon Governor A.J. Campbell’s signature on December 10, 1869.
Within three months, Esther Hobart Morris had been appointed justice of the peace in South Pass City (a site of gold strikes) to fill out a term for a man who’d been ousted. Her “courtroom” consisted of a wooden slab bench in her log cabin. Although she had no legal training, she had been the owner of a successful millinery business in her prior home state of New York. In her first case, she arrested J.W. Stillman, the man who had served in the position but refused to relinquish his court docket. She served for nine months and gave decision on 27 cases, 9 of which were criminal in nature. Her appointment as a judge garnered national attention, and she’s credited with encouraging (perhaps even co-authoring) the woman’s suffrage bill put before the legislation.
|Esther courtesy of Wikipedia|
Also noteworthy was that on September 6, 1870 in Laramie, Mrs. Louisa Swain was the first woman to cast a vote in a general election. She was 69 years old and described as “a gentle white-haired housewife.”
These facts were important because such events would have appeared in newspapers across the nation, establishing Wyoming as an area with a progressive attitude toward women’s rights. My heroine, Ciara Morrissey, grew to adulthood in the east, Massachusetts in particular. Living in an area of higher population gave her access to a wider number of opportunities—ways to support herself, as well as gatherings, colleges, and public meetings that educated and informed. Raised by a liberal-minded mother, Ciara had attended both anti-slavery and suffrage meetings since she was a child. Therefore, she arrived in Wyoming Territory in 1871 with expectations on how to conduct her business that were a bit more open-minded than the hometown sheriff, Quinn Riley, was used to. And the sparks flew…
BLURB: Sheriff Quinn Riley is tracking an Irish swindler and sticking close to the opinionated woman from the runaway stagecoach. Within hours, easterner Ciara Morrissey puts the town in an uproar by inquiring about his prime suspect. He’s duty-bound to keep her safe, even when being close to the green-eyed beauty sets off a stampede in his heart.
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