During Women’s History Month, Vision 2020 is highlighting women who are represented in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall with a bust or full statue. Of the 100 statues sponsored by the states, only 11 women are depicted – including the recent addition of Rosa Parks. Vision 2020 Delegates will share their reflections on the women from their respective states represented in the U.S. Capitol.
Wyoming Delegate Richelle Keinath, with assistance from Wyoming Women’s Foundation intern Ginger Ko, comment on the significance of Esther Hobart Morris:
A statue of Esther Hobart Morris also stands in front of the Wyoming State Capitol building, and is an important state symbol of the equality and suffrage pioneering that took place in Wyoming. Morris’s role in history as the first woman appointed to judicial office in the nation is something that is widely taught to schoolchildren in Wyoming, focusing on Morris’s appointment as Justice of the Peace in 1870 as the forefront of the national movement towards equality. Morris was a woman who stood at six-feet tall, and despite a lack of experience and legal education, creditably handled 26 cases during her tenure as Justice of the Peace—one of her contemporaries recalled that “to pettifoggers she showed no mercy.” To “the test that women could hold public office,” Morris’s answer was a resounding affirmative, and she continued to promote women’s suffrage and leadership throughout her life. Esther Hobart Morris is a part of the permanent display of honored women at the Wyoming House for Historic Women.
The U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall Biography of Esther Hobart Morris:
Woman suffrage leader Esther Hobart Morris was born in Tioga County, New York, on August 8, 1814. Orphaned at age 11, she was apprenticed to a seamstress and became a successful milliner and businesswoman. As a young woman she was active in the anti-slavery movement. Widowed in 1845, she moved to Peru, Illinois, to settle the property in her husband’s estate. There she realized the legal difficulties faced by women. She married John Morris, a prosperous merchant, and in 1869 they moved to a gold rush camp at South Pass City, Wyoming Territory.
To promote the idea of giving women the right to vote, Morris organized a tea party for the electors and candidates for the first territorial legislature. With the national woman suffrage movement still being organized, Wyoming’s enactment of such a law in 1869 was a legislative milestone. Laws were also passed giving married women control of their own property and providing equal pay for women teachers.
When appointed justice of the peace for the South Pass District in 1870, she became the first woman to hold judicial office in the modern world. During the statehood celebration in 1890 she was honored as a suffrage pioneer. In 1895, at age 80, she was elected a delegate to the national suffrage convention in Cleveland. She died in Cheyenne on April 2, 1902.
The statue of Esther Hobart Morris was given to the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall by Wyoming in 1960.
The Rosa Parks statue increases the number of historic women’s statues and busts to a paltry 11. There are more than 90 men represented. During Women’s History Month, Vision 2020 wants to know who is YOUR CHOICE for the next statue.Vote in the Vision 2020 poll for your choice for the next woman to be honored. Vision 2020 will submit the results to Congress.