Wyoming Women's Suffrage Day

Angel Rooks Orton, 14, left, and Stella Rooks, 13, seated, sneak away for a practice read-through of a resolution designating December 10 as Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Day in the Teton County Board of County Commissioners chambers on Monday morning. The two cousins, as well as 1 1/2-year-old Genevieve Bell and her mother, Molly Stewart, right, are all descendants of Genevieve Van Vleck, who served on the country’s first all-woman Town Council, elected by Jackson voters in 1920. See page 2 for more on the resolution.

Stella Rooks, 13, and Angel Rooks Orton, 14, don’t usually address the Teton County Board of County Commissioners. In fact, Monday morning was their first time.

The two great-great-granddaughters of Genevieve Van Vleck weren’t at the early morning meeting to give public comment on a pressing valleywide issue. They were there for a celebration of sorts, helping commissioners declare Dec. 10 Women’s Suffrage Day.

“It’s cool that we can be a part of things,” Rooks said, noting that they were there to do so because their great-great-grandmother “had blazed the trail” for them.

Van Vleck was a member of the “petticoat government,” Jackson’s first all-female Town Council, which was elected in 1920 and served two terms. Her election was a historic moment that came 51 years after the Wyoming Territorial Legislature granted Wyoming women the right to vote on Dec. 10, 1869.

According to the Wyoming State Historical Society, that edict made the territory the first government in the world to do so permanently. Utah’s territorial government followed Wyoming’s lead, voting in favor of women’s suffrage in 1870. The federal government took another 50 years, ratifying the 19th Amendment in 1920.

One hundred and fifty years to the day after Wyoming’s history-making move, Rooks and Orton read Teton County’s resolution — which passed unanimously — to the crowd assembled in the commissioners’ chambers. They spoke alone and in unison when they read phrases like “Women’s Suffrage Day” and “female equality.”

“It’s kind of cool to still be a part of it and still be influenced by someone we didn’t know personally,” Orton said after the celebration.

Teton County’s resolution to declare Dec. 10 Women’s Suffrage Day comes on the heels of a similar measure at the state level introduced by a group of women legislators. Gov. Mark Gordon signed the state resolution on Feb. 13.

Teton County will celebrate Women’s Suffrage Day with a series of events Tuesday.

The Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum is set to kick the celebration off with a free, bring-your-own-lunch event at noon and a reading of a play written by members of the Wyoming League of Women Voters.

Commissioner Natalia D. Macker, the Wyoming Women’s Action Network and Wyoming Humanities/ThinkWY will follow up with a free screening of a WyomingPBS documentary, “The State of Equality: Wyoming Women Get the Vote.” The screening will take place at 6 p.m. at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. A suffragist toast will follow. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Though Rooks and Orton won’t be old enough to vote for a few election cycles, both said they plan to exercise their right to vote when they are.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7062 or entertainment@jhnewsandguide.com.

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