Quote of the day: WYOMING

June 2, 2016

WYOMING

Wyoming is geographically huge—you could fit all of New England inside it, then throw in Hawaii and Maryland for good measure—but it is the least populous state in the Union; under six hundred thousand people live there, fewer than in Louisville, Kentucky…

The rest of the state could be daunting, with its successive mountain chains rising like crests on a flash-frozen ocean. But at least it had grandeur, and verdure. In the east, by contrast, you could travel five hundred miles and not see a tree. Precipitation was similarly scarce. The Homestead Act offered Western settlers a hundred and sixty acres—not enough, in that landscape, to keep five cows alive. In winter, the mercury could plunge to fifty degrees below zero. People froze to death in blizzards in May. Frontier Texas, the saying goes, was paradise for men and dogs, hell on women and horses. Frontier Wyoming was hell on everyone.

Perhaps because it so desperately needed people, Wyoming was, from the outset, unusually egalitarian. Beginning in 1869, women in the territory could vote, serve on juries, and, in some instances, enjoy a guarantee of equal pay for equal work—making it, Susan B. Anthony said, “the first place on God’s green earth which could consistently claim to be the land of the free.” Despite resistance from the U.S. Congress, Wyoming insisted on retaining those rights when petitioning for statehood; in 1890, when it became the forty-fourth state in the Union, it also became the first where women could vote. On the spot, it acquired its nickname: the Equality State.

–Kathryn Schulz in the New Yorker

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