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The West

The West

 Table of Contents

William Bright in The West

William Bright (1826-1912) was a Wyoming territorial legislator and the person most responsible for securing women the right to vote in Wyoming. Although born in Virginia, Bright served in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, he took a federal job in Salt Lake City before moving to Wyoming in search of gold. In South Pass, he invested in several claims and opened a saloon. In 1869, he was elected to the first territorial legislature as a Democrat.

During the first session of the territorial legislature, Bright introduced a measure extending the vote to women. Her motivations were complex. He was no doubt influenced by his wife Julia, an ardent believer in women's suffrage. But part of his rationale for granting women the vote was his opposition to the Fifteenth Amendment; if African Americans were allowed to vote––men he believed to be morally and intellectually inferior––then women should be allowed to vote as well. In addition, Bright was politically ambitious and seemed to see political benefits in adopting this issue.

Bright left Wyoming along with most South Pass residents when gold returns declined in the early 1870s. He lived for about a decade in Denver, Colorado before moving to Washington, D.C. where he died.

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