Breaking News
More () »

Marking a 130-year milestone for women voting in Colorado

Nov. 7, 2023, marks 130 years of most women being allowed to vote in Colorado – most women could vote in Colorado 27 years before national suffrage passed.

DENVER — Election day on Nov. 7, 2023 marks 130 years of most women being allowed to vote in the state of Colorado

The search for election day history isn't always found at the polling place where the vote ends – sometimes visiting the story from the beginning reveals much more. We started at the Colorado Center for Women's History in Denver to find the answers to our questions about the women's suffrage movement. 

Cat Jensen, the education director at the center, knows a lot about the topic. They gave us a few facts about women voting in Colorado, and also offered recommendations on where to learn more about the topic including: 

  1. Places like the tea parlor were places where women gathered to talk about issues of the day. Jensen said that a lot of activism in suffrage started in these spaces. "Social spaces become spaces where women are discussing issues that are important to them. They’re talking about education and sanitation and what they want for their communities," they said. 

  2. Colorado gave women the right to vote by popular referendum on Nov. 7, 1893, making it the first state to do so. Wyoming beat Colorado by a bit, but was a territory and not a state when that happened. 

  3. Colorado was ahead of the times. Most women could vote in Colorado 27 years before national suffrage passed. 

  4. You might notice the phrase "most women" keeps popping up. That is because not all women were allowed to vote after Colorado suffrage passed. "People of color largely were not able to vote in the first vote," said Jensen. They added that this time was not devoid of racism when it came to gaining suffrage. "There's also a pro-suffrage argument made at this time that white women should get the vote because they’ll vote with their white husbands against people of color being allowed to vote," they said.  

  5. Women of color also worked for women's suffrage. Elizabeth Piper Ensley was a prominent leader in Colorado suffrage, and she was also a journalist. Many women of color helped Colorado get early suffrage.   

  6. Women not only talked about the issues that were important to them in their homes and at women's clubs, but they also traveled to help get out the vote. "Women are physically going to mining towns and to other parts of the state and speaking," Jensen said. "They were looking for things like education reform in mining towns in Colorado." 

  7. The passing of women's suffrage in Colorado led to a few other historic moments. After the vote, three women were elected into the Colorado state legislature. "They really get to work laying the groundwork for our first female senator in 1912," Jensen said. 

The West may seem remote, especially 130 years ago, but that might have played into the reason why women were granted the right to vote early on said Jensen. 

"Women here were being less held to the social conventions they might have brought with them from the East. Women here are ranching, they’re farming, they’re doing the work that men are also doing. They're probably thinking, 'If we’re doing all this work, how will we benefit from it?'" they said. 

Jensen recommended visiting the museum for a guided tour and more information about women's history in Colorado. They also had the following recommendations to learn more. 

  • "Why They Marched" by Susan Ware
  • "African American Women in the Vote" by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn
  • "Public Faces, Secret Lives: A Queer History of the Women's Suffrage Movement" by Wendy Rouse
  • "And Nothing Less" Podcast
  • "She Votes!" Podcast

History Colorado recommended sources from their "Lost Highways: Dispatches from the Shadows of the Rocky Mountains" series. 


SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Colorado Elections 

Before You Leave, Check This Out