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  1. #1
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    Esther Hobart Morris has now gone underground

    When my family (Dad was military, we had been overseas) returned to the United States in 1970, we were stationed in Cheyenne, Wyoming. When we kids first learned from Dad that we would be moving there, we were in disbelief. Cheyenne, Wyoming? That was a town in old TV westerns! Amid the shocked responses of all of us, I remember asking my Dad, Will we have to go to school on horseback?

    No, I walked to school, the town was about 40,000 people then (66,000 today). Cheyenne is its capital city. My daily walk took me past the State Capitol building where, in front of the large steps, was a statue of a woman. I read the words on the statue's pedestal and, in my youthfulness, was struck into silence, made solemn by the importance given to this person as something the grownups had found to be really important such that those words basically memorialized themselves into my latent memory:

    ESTHER HOBART MORRIS

    PROPONENT OF THE LEGISLATIVE ACT WHICH
    IN 1869 GAVE DISTINCTION TO THE TERRITORY OF


    WYOMING

    AS THE 1ST GOVERNMENT IN THE WORLD TO GRANT

    WOMEN EQUAL RIGHTS



    Here is what I saw, a statue first placed in front of those steps in 1963:




    That is why they call themselves The Equality State, I thought. First government in the world. Wow.

    So, it was a surprise yesterday when I happened to be using Google Maps to walk the streets of my old stomping grounds and discovered that the statue of this revered woman was no longer there:

    Wyoming State Capitol

    but had been replaced with a surface-level depiction of their Great Seal, cordoned off to disallow anyone from treading upon it, probably a necessary workaround for the fact that they did not elevate it with a pedestal of its own. Then again, a pedestal could make it harder to behold, as well as providing the noon-day workers a circular bench of sorts with which they might sit and wolf down their sack lunches, indifferent to its majesty.

    So, I thought, why did they remove the statue? Was it a casualty of the statue-tipping fad of recent times? In the Equality State? Hey, they are messing with a pre-MGTOW childhood memory.

    I had to find out.

    It turns out that her bronze likeness got moved to an underground tunnel out of the way of visitors, ostensibly as part of a 2019 renovation of the Capitol and its grounds. I say ostensibly, as the reason given for its move indoors was to protect it from weather damage (yet it had endured rough Wyoming winters since 1963) and from vandalism (citing one incident from 1973). They are/were debating to bring her back outside and I found in one article is what I believe to be the underlying truth of it.

    Turns out that Esther's memorialized contribution to women's rights was never true.

    I suffer (ha, not suffrage) to make this post even longer by presenting the relevant portion of a 2019 article:

    Nearly lost in this controversy is the exact role Morris played in the Territorial Legislature’s vote to approve the women’s suffrage bill 150 years ago. It’s a fascinating tale, and one worth learning.

    As a rookie reporter, I read old newspaper accounts of Morris hosting a tea party in South Pass City in 1869. The story goes that at the event, she extracted promises from Democratic and Republican legislative candidates to pass a suffrage bill.

    Democrat William Bright won the legislative election and held true to his word. Thus, Esther Hobart Morris was enshrined in Wyoming history as “the mother of women’s suffrage.”

    It’s a great, stirring story. The only problem, according to historians who researched the primary sources, is that it isn’t true. They concluded there was no tea party, and Bright’s inspiration for sponsoring the bill appears to have been encouragement from his wife.

    State historian Rick Ewig debunked the myth in the Annals of Wyoming’s winter 2006 issue (“Did She Do That? Examining Esther Morris’ Role in the Passage of the Suffrage Act”). While Morris was a suffrage supporter who spoke at several national conventions and at Wyoming’s statehood celebration in 1890, she never mentioned the alleged tea party. She gave all the credit to Bright.

    Ewig wrote that it wasn’t until 1919, 17 years after Morris’ death and a year before women nationally won the right to vote, that the tea party incident was “invented” during a speech by Herman Nickerson, Bright’s 1869 GOP opponent. Morris’ life had a new legacy.

    Nickerson’s real aim, according to Ewig, was to embarrass Democrats and credit Republicans for Wyoming’s bold move. Wyoming historian Grace Raymond Hebard picked up the tea party tale and ran with it, giving it so much credibility that it is repeated in school textbooks and elsewhere.

    The all-Democratic Territorial Legislature passed the bill, but some believe they may have done so to make Republican Gov. John Campbell look bad when he vetoed it. But instead, he signed it.

    Embarrassingly, the Legislature tried to repeal the law a year later, failing by a single vote. Nickerson claimed Democrats were angry that many women used their votes to elect Republicans.

    Morris is a symbol of equal rights for women, Ewig noted, “but it should be based on her tenure as a judge, not as someone ‘nagging’ or hosting a tea/dinner party or influencing in some way the passage of suffrage in 1869.”

    If childhood memories have to expire, at least this one succumbed to the truth. I suspect that Esther will stay underground for the foreseeable future because downtown Cheyenne, which suffered a mass exodus of businesses in 1982 when a huge Frontier Mall was built north of town and sucked all major commerce away from it, reclassifying it for dignity's sake as historic downtown, is now riddled with huge painted murals on the sides of old brick buildings and especially in the alleys between buildings where some eateries have set up outdoor areas to dine amidst the nearby parked cars, dumpsters, and other alley delights. An historic Old West town marred by anachronistic, tacky paintings. The alley dining may be a response to Covid spacing requirements. The murals may be a desire to distract these diners from the fact they are paying to sit in an alley or due to the fact that Cheyenne now has a high crime rate for its size, theft being the big one. Theft, sure, but idleness has always been there in a small town and I believe that murals are a city's preemptive way to stave off graffiti vandalism. Such vandalism being the modern form of expression, like body tattoos but on a larger canvas. This ain't 1963 and I bet that statue would not be immune today to some spray-painted tattoos.

    Some of those alleys, unpainted back in the 70s were where we high-schoolers would slip away to smoke a joint before heading into the movie theater. Would the alley diners delight in knowing that not too far from where they now enjoy their veggie wraps in that alley is where my best friend told me he once balled a chick inside a large furniture box?

    Sigh, you can't go home again.
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    The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. - Mark Twain

    The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
    - Henry David Thoreau

    There are 10 types of people in the world - those who understand binary, and those who don't.

    Suitable for bookmarking: www.fakehatecrimes.org and www.breitbart.com/tag/hate-crime-hoax

  2. #2
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    Re: Esther Hobart Morris has now gone underground

    Jackson Wyoming (where they filmed part of Clint Eastwood's second monkey movie long ago) has a city park with an entryway arch mad out of elk antlers. It looks good. What they don't say is back in the seventies there was a ten-foot wall of antlers going all the way down the block. Guess it was considered to bloody for today's politically correct world. You can't go back home, even in the wild west.
    Every day I make the world a little bit worse.


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