“To get thirty sixth state, mobilizing one woman each state…want you and only you…” So wrote national woman suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt on April 12, 1920 in a telegram to Wyoming historian, prolific writer, and noted University of Wyoming educator Grace Raymond Hebard. The Suffrage Emergency Brigade was lobbying Connecticut’s governor for the state’s legislature to make it the 36th state to ratify the 19th amendment. All hands were on deck and, as one of the suffrage movement’s elite, Hebard was in demand as a lobbyist and speaker.
Wyoming was heralded among national suffragists for being the first state in the Union to sign a woman suffrage act into law. Hebard became that act’s standard bearer. Suffragists were keen to hold up Hebard as a noble example of American womanhood. Back in 1890, Hebard had already shown her suffrage tenacity when she petitioned the Wyoming constitutional convention to adopt a suffrage clause upon becoming a state in the Union.
U.S. ratification of women’s right to vote came on August 18, 1920 when the 19th amendment was passed. Even after their suffrage work was done, Catt and Hebard remained good friends. In 1921, Hebard spearheaded the University of Wyoming’s first honorary degree, which was given to Carrie Chapman Catt.
The American Heritage Center holds the papers of Grace Raymond Hebard. Contained in this collection are correspondence, telegrams, posters, and speeches detailing strategies employed by supporters of woman suffrage, as well as Hebard’s role in the process. Select portions of the collection have been digitized and can be viewed here.
– Leslie Waggener, Associate Archivist