#Lookback: John Fosher, Savior of Women’s Suffrage

A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System
where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and
presented by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

Every Wyoming schoolchild learns that Wyoming was the first place in the United States to grant women the right to vote in 1869, but what they probably don’t know was how close women came to losing their voting rights in the next legislative session in 1871. John Fosher was a member of the Wyoming State Senate from Sweetwater County in 1871. Fremont County was still part of Sweetwater County at this time. A bill to repeal women’s voting rights was put before the legislature; it passed and was sent to Territorial Governor Campbell’s desk for his signature. Thankfully, Campbell vetoed the bill and sent it back to the legislature, and then an attempt was made to pass the bill over the governor’s veto.

Ann Kilbourne wrote a letter to the Cheyenne Tribune and described what she witnessed.

“The next day the matter came up in both branches. In the House, Captain Nickerson did all he could, but there were too many against him, and they voted to pass the bill over the governor’s veto. When it came up in the Senate the lobby was filled with ladies, who were waiting with the greatest anxiety for the voting to take place. All had voted, save one and the vote was equal for and against. In the farthest corner of the room sat Mr. Fosher. When at last his name was called, he arose amid the breathless silence and deep interest of those chiefly concerned in the issue, and with a very nice speech and with much emphasis, “I unhesitatingly say no.”  The bill to repeal women’s voting rights was defeated.

Mrs. Kilbourne continued, “Then the day’s session closed and the ladies all crowded around Mr. Fosher shaking hands and thanking him for so nobly standing by them.”

The issue of women’s suffrage was again debated when Wyoming was ready to join the union as a state in 1890. When the state constitution was finalized article 6 stated:

“The rights of citizens of the State of Wyoming to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex. Both male and female citizens of this state shall equally enjoy all civil, political, and religious rights and privileges.” Women’s voting rights were safely written into the constitution of Wyoming.

So who was John Fosher? John Fosher came from Indiana and first settled in Colorado where he was elected to the first legislature of Colorado Territory. He purchased land in what is now downtown Denver. When he sold this land he made a tidy profit. He moved to Cheyenne in 1868 and the following year moved to Atlantic City and was elected to the second territorial senate from Sweetwater county.

He found work as a government employee at Camp Stambaugh. President Harrison appointed him the Indian agent of the Shoshone and Arapaho. It was during his tenure as Indian agent the Brunot agreement was signed and the southern boundary of the reservation was moved from South Pass to the North Fork of the Popo Agie River. This made it legal for Whites to settle the community of Pushroot which later became Lander.

After his time as an Indian agent, he and his brother homesteaded along upper Baldwin Creek west of Lander and raised sheep and cattle. They built a cabin and used wool to chink the logs since the price of wool was so depressed at the time. They also built two irrigation ditches from Baldwin creek to their fields.

He was a stockholder and president of the Clipper Publishing company, the Lander newspaper, and also a stockholder and director of the First National Bank. John Fosher married late in life and had no children. John Fosher died on July 24, 1896.

Next up for the Fremont County Museum

April 1, 9-5 pm “First Friday” at the Dubois Museum, Pioneer Museum and Riverton Museum.  State Farm Riverton/State Farm Lander

April 6, 6 pm at the Riverton Museum “History of Photography & Cameras” by Ken Stoeklin, Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

April 30, 1-3 pm at the Pioneer Museum in Lander “Sheep Shearing Day” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

April 30, 2-4 pm at the Riverton Museum “Arts and Music Day” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

Thru October 2022, 9-5 pm Monday-Saturday, at the Pioneer Museum, “Hurrah for The Cowboy: Men of the Open Range” Art Exhibition

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum need your financial support.  In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years.  Please make your tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

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