Fortunately for Cody, our Wyoming statutes early on gave women substantial property rights.
I say fortunate because that fact turned over a lot of cash in the county, spurring our economic growth.
Think of Alphia Chapman. She arrived in the area with her brothers, married, pioneered a ranch with her husband, supplemented the ranch income by setting up and running a profitable cheese-making operation, then worked with her husband on a variety of other enterprises. Following John’s passing, Affie continued expanding her wealth, holding his seat in their banking operations for another 16 years.
That ranch was the Two Dot. That bank is now part of Wells Fargo.
Think, too, of Elizabeth Hearne Hollister, a star among early property-owners. Her background may be a bit murky, but no one questioned that she was a lady – one who landed here after marriage to a Princeton graduate. Dwight had seemed a certain bet to rise to the top of some prestigious law firm.
Elizabeth adapted to what would become the Rand Ranch. She shut her jewels and gowns away to become a crack shot and a brilliant land speculator. She and her handsome husband didn’t just file on land individually but had their hired hands file for them. Indications are that Dwight did the paperwork while Elizabeth handled the deals.
Cody women valued education and literacy as a common goal. The state provided for it; the women made sure that girls were included. In fact, women felt the need for general literacy and continuing education so strongly that they joined together to ensure the town had it. Many participated and thanks to them (the famous Lady Doc, Frances Lane, as their leader), we obtained Carnegie money and a county library.
Women were not expected to run for public office and 99.9% of the time they didn’t. The .1% were notable exceptions – legends in their own time; Orilla Downing Hollister being prominent among them. A former trick rider for the Wild West Show, a mother, camp cook, housemaid and eventually Dwight Hollister’s second wife, she became one of the first to run for public office in the Big Horn Basin, serving as County Clerk for many years.
The Trout Creek Ranch’s Alice DeMauriac set her sights on national office. She made two efforts at winning a seat in the House of Representatives, doing so on the Democratic ticket.
Alice was a true believer in education, ranking among the first women to complete Chicago University’s clinical psychology graduate program. After practicing successfully for a number of years, she returned to Wyoming to manage first her father’s then her own ranches. These experiences were not without notable setbacks ... like marriage to a man who would become a male model.
Taken together, the few women I’ve mentioned in these four columns and the vast majority that I’ve not, it’s been a pleasure for me to remember them with a smile and, as they would have said, a “tilt of the hat.”