Woman Suffrage: The West Came First

A Part of the NWHM's Centenary Celebration Series, "Determined to Rise": Women's Historical Activism for Equal Rights.

This virtual panel was presented on August 26, 2020 by the National Women's History Museum in collaboration with Michigan Women Forward.


The earliest suffrage victories were in the west. The territory of Wyoming granted women the vote in 1869, the same year as the founding of the two national suffrage organizations. When Wyoming became a state in 1890, the new government continued to allow women to vote. Three years later, Colorado became the next woman suffrage state. Utah and Idaho followed in 1896. Suffragists from all over the country traveled to states considering new suffrage laws to advocate for their cause and, in turn, informed the woman suffrage debates that were occurring in the east.


Valerie Marvin is an historian and curator at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, a National Historic Landmark. In this capacity, she oversees the Capitol’s historical collections, and conducts extensive research on Capitol and legislative history, sharing her findings through publications, lectures, and social media. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan (Bachelor of Arts in Russian Studies, 2005) and Eastern Michigan University (Masters of Science in Historic Preservation, 2009). Marvin is an active member of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing, the Downtown Lansing Inc. Design Committee, and the Lansing Woman’s Club.


  • Dr. Lori Ann Lahlum is a professor in the department of history at Minnesota State University in Mankato where she teaches courses on the American West, Minnesota history, and western women’s and gender history. She and Molly Rozum edited Equality at the Ballot Box: Votes for Women on the Northern Great Plains, which came out with South Dakota Historical Press in 2019. Lahlum also publishes on Norwegian America.
  • Dr. Virginia Caruso is an historian and member of the board of trustees at the Historical Society of Michigan in Plainwell. She retired in 2001 after 34 years of teaching history at 4-year liberal arts colleges, and community colleges. She holds graduate degrees from the University of Michigan where she received her MA, has a specialist in the arts degree from Western Michigan University, and her PhD from Michigan State University. Her interest in both Michigan and women’s history date back to early 1981 when she discovered that the standard texts on Michigan history were inconsistent about when women in Michigan achieved equal suffrage. Focusing on this topic for her dissertation, her research focuses on woman suffrage, voting rights, voting in Michigan, and the political activism of women. She currently serves on the board of the Historical Society of Michigan, serves as a Michigan History Day judge, and is active with the local Friends of Michigan Library Group.
  • Dr. Molly Rozum is an associate professor and the director of graduate studies at The University of South Dakota in Vermillion. She is the co-editor (with Lori Ann Lahlum) of Equality at the Ballot Box: Votes for Women on the Northern Great Plains, published by South Dakota Historical Society Press (2019). The volume includes her article, “Citizenship, Civilization, and Property: The 1890 South Dakota Vote on Woman Suffrage and Indian Suffrages.” Rozum is Associate Professor and Ronald R. Nelson Chair of Great Plains and South Dakota History at The University of South Dakota, Vermillion and teaches the histories of South Dakota, and the Great Plains, and the American West, and Modern Women’s History.
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