In 1865, Rep. James Ashley (R-Ohio), chairman of the Committee on Territories, pressed Congress to provide a “temporary government for the territory of Wyoming.” It was to be carved out of portions of the Dakota, Utah and Idaho territories. His bill, however, failed to advance out of committee.
When the Senate successfully took up the issue in 1868, other names were suggested for the new territory, including Shoshoni, Arapaho, Sioux, Platte, Big Horn, Yellowstone, Sweetwater, Lincoln and Cheyenne, the name of the eventual state capital. But by then, the name Wyoming was already in common use and remained the most popular choice of the still sparse populace. It was adopted from the Delaware Indian word that meant “at the big river flat,” originally linked to Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley.
The federal government had acquired the land that now comprises eastern Wyoming in 1803 from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Several years later, John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, became the first non-Native American to explore the region. He visited the area around what is now Yellowstone National Park and brought back news of its amazing geysers and hot springs.
The western segments Wyoming came under U.S. jurisdiction through the 1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain and as part of the deal that ended the Mexican War of 1848.
When the Wyoming Territory was organized in 1869, Wyoming women became the first in the nation to obtain the right to vote, at least in part in a bid to garner enough votes to be admitted as a state. That finally occurred on this day in 1890, when, under legislation signed by President Benjamin Harrison, Wyoming became the 44th state to join the Union. The road to statehood had begun in 1888 when the Territorial Assembly sent Congress a petition for admission into the Union.
In 1924, Nellie Tayloe Ross, a Democrat, became the nation’s first woman elected as governor. Ross went on to become the first woman to be named as director of the U.S. Mint, a post she held from 1933 to 1953. In 1991, women held three of the state’s five top elective positions.