By the mid-nineteenth century the fight for women's suffrage was radical but hardly new, until the women of the west changed the course. Armed with the ethos of manifest domesticity, they established and managed schools, churches, and philanthropies; they ran for office, first for the school board but soon for local legislature. Wielding their authority in public life for political gains, they successfully fought for the right to earn income, purchase property, and, especially, vote. In 1869, partly to lure more women past the Rocky Mountains, Wyoming gave women the vote. Utah, Colorado, and Idaho soon followed, and long before the Nineteenth Amendment of 1919 did so across the country, nearly every western state or territory had enfranchised women.
In New Women in the Old West, Winifred Gallagher brings to life the little known and under-reported women who played monumental roles in one of the most vibrant and transformative periods in the history of the United States. Alongside their victories, Gallagher explores the women who were less privileged by race and class, the Native American, Hispanic, African-American, and Asian women, yet joined the fight for universal equality. Drawing on an extraordinary collection of research, including personal letters and diaries, Gallagher weaves together the striking achievements of those who not only created homes on weather-wracked prairies and built communities in muddy mining camps, but played a crucial, unrecognized role in the women's rights movement, and forever redefined the American woman.