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Statue of Esther Hobart Morris

Statue of Esther Hobart Morris

Wyoming's representative statue of Esther Hobart Morris in Statuary Hall, Washington, D.C., was the first major project of the Wyoming State Historical Society. The bronze statue by Avard Fairbanks was presented by the State of Wyoming in ceremonies at the Capitol in 1960.

The July 2, 1864 law creating National Statuary Hall reads, in part:

"The States to provide and furnish statues, in marble or bronze, not exceeding two in number for each state, of deceased persons, who have been citizens thereof, and illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military service as each State may deem worthy of this national commemoration."

Statue of Esther Hobart Morris Equal rights leader, Esther Hobart McQuigg, was born in Tioga County, New York, on August 8, 1812. Orphaned at an early age, 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 by Artemus Slack, a civil engineer, she moved to Peru, Illinois, with an infant son 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 along with twin sons, they moved to a gold rush camp at South Pass City, in the newly created Wyoming Territory.

To promote the idea of giving women the right to vote, Morris was said to have organized a tea party for the electors and candidates for the first territorial legislature. However, her role in promoting suffrage legislation in the territory has been disputed. In any case, Wyoming became the first U.S. territory to give women the right to vote, and Esther Morris is commonly regarded as one of the heroines of the women’s suffrage movement.

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. Mrs. Morris served 8½ months and handled 26 cases, none of which were ever overturned on appeal.

During the statehood celebration in 1890 she was honored as a suffrage pioneer. In 1895 she was elected a delegate to the National Suffrage Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

She died in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on April 2, 1902.