Women gained the right to vote through a Constitutional amendment passed by the people of Colorado during a general election on November 7, 1893. As reported in the Aspen Daily Times on November 9, 1893, "Colorado passes Women's suffrage by several thousand votes." In Pitkin County, the official vote count was 913 For and 588 Against.
Colorado became the first state in the Union to approve women's suffrage in a popular election. The right to vote came after two failed attempts over a period of twenty-five years of effort on the part of many Coloradoans. Equal suffrage did not just happen. A massive campaign was organized by a combination of determined women and men of all colors, creeds and classes. "Let the Women Vote" was the rallying cry from Denver to Durango. Women's organizations, labor unions, the W.C.T.U., political parties, religious groups, garden clubs, business leaders, and many other reform-minded people set aside their differences to win the vote for women.
This radical action was promoted by Governor Davis H. Waite, of Aspen, Co., a long-time civic reformer who first gained notoriety in Colorado as the editor of The Aspen Union Era. Published from August 1891 to August 1892, the paper touted unions for miners, free silver and women's suffrage. The founder of the Populist Party in Pitkin County, Waite and his son-in-law, B. Clark Wheeler, were a well-matched pair, one investing frantic energy in reform and the other in entrepreneurial schemes.
Waite's nomination for governor was ridiculed by some. The Sun called him "erratic...and garrulous in the extreme...and too preposterous for serious consideration." But as silver began its slide to oblivion, in November 1892, voters flocked to the polls to elect Waite to the governorship and B. Clark Wheeler to the state senate.
Although women in Wyoming had the right to vote as a result of their territorial charter and women in other states had limited voting privileges, the 1893 election Waite had promised made Colorado the first state in the Union to win voting rights for women as the result of a popular election. Colorado women voted and ran for office a quarter century before the 19th Amendment made women suffrage the law of the land in 1920.
Excerpts from The Queen Bee, Denver's first women's-rights newspaper, written and published 1882-1926 by Caroline Churchill The paper's motto: "Devoted to the interests of Humanity, Women's Political Equality and Individuality."
Written by Christie Kienast with information from the Archives of the Aspen Historical Society, the Colorado State Committee for Suffrage Centennial, and the Pitkin County Library. (1993)
“There are women so shrewd as to manage to make a husband support them. There are others smart enough to take care of themselves and husbands too.” (July 5, 1892)
“It is considered a dreadful thing for a woman to marry a man for his money. It should be full as mean a thing for a man to monopolize a woman's time so that she cannot make money for herself.” (July 5, 1892)
“Some time ago the Silver Plume Coloradoan published a long harangue about women's inferiority to man, and among other nonsense said that even in fashionable life she was falling off so much in producing children as to alarm the gravest thinkers.”
“Now if the editor of that journal would instruct men as to their duties in bringing up the children....he would be doing the race a more consistent service. As to woman's inferiority physically, no person of sense pretends to claim that woman alone could make as great a prize fighter as man, and no person of common sense would give this as a reason for enslaving woman.” (Dec. 13, 1882)
“Give the women who own property and pay taxes a chance to vote. The legal voters of Colorado must decide for or against equal suffrage on the 7th of next November.”—The Aspen Daily Times, August 26, 1893