When the US became a nation, adult women did not posses individual political rights.
Nearly seventy years passed before women sought an independent political voice at
the first women’s rights conventions in Seneca Falls, New York. Afterward, rights
conventions were held across the United States. The western states were the first to grant
women the right to vote.
The Nevada constitution, accepted in 1864, gave the right to vote only to white men.
Curtis J. Hillyer, a representative from Storey County, introduced a bill in 1869 to allow
women the vote. He argued that women possessed at least as much intelligence as men,
they followed the same laws, paid the same taxes, and most importantly would introduce
a new standard of public morality to the political process. Both houses of the Nevada
legislature passed the amendment that year, but it failed to pass two years later during the
constitutionally mandated second vote. Forty years passed before suffrage became an
issue again in the state.
Several women played instrumental roles in winning the vote for Nevada women.
Nevada native Anne Martin played a decisive role in Nevada’s second suffrage
campaign. A veteran of the fight for suffrage in Britain, she returned to Reno in 1911
and led the Nevada Equal Franchise Society to a winning, county-by-county strategy
to gain the vote. Bird Wilson, a lawyer practicing in Goldfield, oversaw the suffrage
campaign in southern Nevada. She wrote, “Women Under Nevada Law,” a pamphlet
that was sent around the state as suffrage material. No suffrage organization existed
in Las Vegas until Delphine Squires, active in women’s social organizations and co-
publisher of the Las Vegas Age, agreed to serve as the local contact to coordinate suffrage
speakers. While Squires agreed that women should vote, she felt it should be achieved
diplomatically and not in the more radical ways of Martin and Wilson. Despite her
discomfort she played an integral part in bring woman suffrage to Nevada.
On November 3, 1914, the general vote was taken to decide whether Nevada women
would be allowed the vote. It took several days for the results to be tallied, but the
amendment passed with the margin of victory coming from rural regions of the state.
Women in Nevada voted for the first time in 1915 in local races and in statewide races in 1916.
Women gained the right to vote nationally with the 19th Amendment to the constitution ratified in 1920.
For more information on Nevada woman suffrage and Anne Martin see:
Anne Howard, The Long Campaign: A Biography of Anne Martin (Nevada: University of
Nevada Press, 1985).