In conjunction with the Votes for Women exhibition in the Herstory Gallery, we are always looking for more stories about the many unsung pioneers of women’s suffrage. Long-time curatorial and library volunteer and friend of the Brooklyn Museum, Marty Levenson, has this fascinating account to share about Esther Hobart Morris, a local activist from Wyoming who’s brave efforts to promote suffrage legislation led to her appointment as one of the first female justices of the peace in the Wyoming Territory, as it was known in the mid-late 1800s. Read more of Marty’s account of Esther Hobart Morris below.
“Following years of legislative and social struggle, women received the right to vote under US Federal law in 1920. But the country’s first legislative success with regard to women’s suffrage came in 1869 in the then newly created Wyoming Territory.
Though not a member of the Territorial legislature, Esther Hobart Morris has been given major credit for supporting that bill and other laws that allowed married women to control their own property, and provided equal pay for women teachers.
Mrs. Morris was appointed a justice of the peace in 1870 and was the country’s first woman to serve in a judicial office. Afterward, she continued to be active in political affairs and during Wyoming’s statehood celebration in 1890 she was honored for her suffrage activities. In 1895, at age 80, she was elected a delegate to the national suffrage convention in Cleveland.
A life size statue of Mrs. Morris stands directly in front of the Wyoming state capitol in Cheyenne and a copy of the statue was donated to the national statuary hall in the US Capitol when she was designated Wyoming’s representative in that exhibit.”
— Marty Levenson.
Sarah Giovanniello is the Research Assistant at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, where she assists the Curator of the Center with exhibitions, a growing permanent collection that includes The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago, public programs, and projects related to feminism, feminist art, and the collection. Since 2008, she has worked on numerous exhibitions, including Kiki Smith: Sojourn, Healing the Wounds of War: The Brooklyn Sanitary Fair of 1864, Ghada Amer: Love Has No End, Reflections on the Electric Mirror: New Feminist Video, and Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958–1968. In 2009, she organized the mounting of Jen DeNike's TWIRL at the Museum for PERFORMA09. She has worked on numerous public programs, her favorites of which include making ourselves visible: a project in feminist space making with artists Liz Linden and Jen Kennedy, and the 2008 Emerging Scholars Feminist Art Symposium, Feminism NOW. As Research Assistant, she manages the Feminist Art Base and posts to the Brooklyn Museum blog on topics related to the Center's programs, projects, and exhibitions. Sarah holds an M.A. in Performance Studies from NYU and a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College.