Hobart McQuigg Slack Morris
There is something wrong with the world when everyone knows who Betsy Ross was but hardly anyone recognizes the name of Esther Hobart McQuigg Slack Morris.
Esther McQuigg was born in Tioga County, New York, near the city of Spencer. She was orphaned at the age of 11. When she was 27, she married a man named Artemus Slack, who died only three years later. Esther married again some time later, and moved with her new husband, John Morris, to Wyoming Territory in 1869.
Wyoming at that time had never even held a meeting of the territorial government. It was a brand new territory and Esther, with astonishing vision, saw that in this lawless and barbaric land women might find rights and opportunities that were not available elsewhere in the country.
With that goal in mind, she held a tea party for her local delegate to the upcoming government meeting, urging him to present the legislature with a proposal to allow women's suffrage, noting that if women were voting, they would vote pro-law and pro-government. The delegate did so, and Wyoming became the first territory to enfranchise women.
Esther did not stop there, continuing her crusade and soon getting equal pay for men and women school teachers, rights for married women, and the right for women to hold office and serve on juries.
In 1870, she was appointed Justice of the Peace (not without some controversy) for South Pass City. She served in this position for only 8-1/2 months, but was well-respected and her judgments were never reversed. She left her husband in 1871 and moved to Laramie where she ran unsuccessfully for office.
Wyoming applied for statehood in 1890, it seemed doubtful the territory
would be accepted as long as women had the vote. There are two versions
of the message that Wyoming gave Washington: " We may stay out
of the Union for 100 years, but we will come in with our women"
or "we will remain out of the Union a hundred
Either way, I get tingles down my spine just reading the words. And they didn't have to stay out--Wyoming became a state with women's suffrage intact.
Back to Esther, though...the bits and pieces of her life that can be found on line leave nothing but more questions. How did she live after her parents' deaths? Did she have siblings? Who took her in? Who gave her her tremendous self-confidence and sense of worth? What was it like for her to leave her home at the age of 55 for the frontier?
I can't find even one book about her. Not surprisingly, there are ten in print about Betsy.
Today is the feast day for Saint Lide and Saint Dominic. Saint Dominic was the founder of the Dominicans and is the patron saint of astronomers.
Deborah Norville turns 45 (1958) today. I don't like her. I heard it said once that women look at Deborah Norville and are instantly reminded of their least favorite roommate. Nancy Kerrigan strikes me the same way--there is just something about her. Maybe it is a facial expression...simpering? Nice word, anyway, presumably from a Danish one meaning coy and affected.
Both Joan Mondale (1930) and Esther Williams (1923) celebrate birthdays today.