Morris, Esther Hobart Slack

Morris, Esther Hobart (b. McQuigg) Slack

(1814–1902) women's suffrage activist; born in Tioga County, N.Y. An orphan seamstress, she married a civil engineer in 1841 and moved to Illinois after his death. There she married again. The family emigrated to Wyoming in 1869, her husband opening a saloon in a gold rush settlement called South Pass City. She became involved in the woman's suffrage movement, and in 1870, after the Wyoming legislature had granted women the vote (1869), she was briefly a justice of the peace. A big woman, blunt in speech, she attracted national attention and tried some 70 cases. She called her tenure a successful test "of a woman's ability to hold public office." She separated from her husband in 1871 and moved to Laramie, where one of her sons edited a newspaper. Although the extent of her contribution is debated, she became a legendary figure in the suffrage movement. Late in her life she was dubbed "the Mother of Woman Suffrage," and the state of Wyoming officially commemorated her role as a leading suffragist in 1890.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.