A New Century for Laramie women—1900

If you were a causal reader of the Laramie newspapers in the 1800s you would not know that Jane Ivinson, at one time or another, owned most of what is now downtown Laramie. That is true because women’s activities, other than social issues, were not well coved by the press.

 On January 1, 1900 the Laramie Woman’s Club took a major step to change that. Under the auspices of the Laramie Boomerang a special edition of the paper titled “Woman’s Edition” was published. It was very upbeat about the new century ahead and the roles women’s organizations would play.

 That the Boomerang published it is not surprising. One of the assistant editors was Eleanor Marie Corthell, the wife of the owner of the paper, Nellis Corthell.

 The staff of the edition represented a cross section of Laramie citizens as noted by the occupations of their husbands--who were attorneys, ranchers, businessmen, professors and laborers. All were married except one, Freda Prahl.

 May Preston Slosson contributes

 The 16-page paper was dedicated entirely to issues of concern to local women. The entire front page was devoted to a one act play/poem “Wyoming” by May Preston Slosson.

  Dr. Slosson held the unique position as chaplain at the state penitentiary west of Laramie, possibly the first woman anywhere to hold that type of job. She also held a PhD from Cornell University. She dedicated the play “to the children of Wyoming.” The lead character in the play was “Wyoming – A beautiful woman crowned with stars.”

 Grace Raymond Hebard featured

 The featured article on the second page was by Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard. She had earned a PhD from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1893 and had become a considerable force at the University of Wyoming starting in 1891. Her article detailed the status of education in the state.

 She led with a quote from the United State Commissioner of Education William Harris, who complimented Wyoming as having a high commitment to education though at the time was not yet admitted to the Union. Hebard noted that the census report of 1890 showed the new state of Wyoming had the lowest rate of illiteracy of any state in the Union.

 Hebard highlighted the role of Wyoming women in education. She pointed out that of the 13 counties in the state at the time, 10 superintendents of instruction were women. Moreover, she noted, of the 306 teachers in the state, 247 were women who, by law, were paid the same salary as men.

 Jane Ivinson writes

 Another long feature story was a letter written by Jane Ivinson to the Laramie Woman’s club from her winter residence in San Diego, California.  It recapped her first impressions of the frontier town when she arrived in May 1868 with her husband, daughter and maid.

 A portion of her letter that stands out detailed the efforts of Laramie women resulting in the first Sunday school in town as well as the first public school. Notably, she signed the letter “Jane Ivinson” not “Mrs. Edward Ivinson” as she would have been referred to in a regular edition of the Laramie papers.

 Elizabeth “Carrol” Ingham (her maiden name was actually “Carroll”) also gave a glimpse into Laramie’s early history.  She writes that she arrived in the Laramie Basin in November, 1867 when her mother and sisters arrived on the first passenger train into Cheyenne. Her father, Michael Carroll, was the “master of transportation” at Fort Sanders. He met them., taking them the rest of the way in a “government ambulance.”

 She says the following year they moved to Laramie City, then a town of log houses and tents. She claims the first school was a private one taught by a young man named Lancaster.  She also mentions that she attended another private school called St. Mary’s, corroborated by a couple of pre-1890s St. Mary’s schoolbooks in the LPM collection with her signature.

 Women jurors

 The “Woman’s Edition” also recapped the historic role of Laramie women in jurisprudence. Sarah Pease, who had been one of the six women who served on the March 1870 grand jury, gave the particulars of the jury, the first in world history on which women served. She remarked that a principal reason that women were seated on the jury was that men at the time were reluctant to convict men who were their friends and acquaintances. The judge, John Howe, praised the women highly for their response to the call for civic duty.

 Wilhelmina Brown, president of the Laramie Woman’s Club gave a greeting to the readers of the issue, “The privilege of expressing the feelings of joy to our fellow-men, through the medium of a newspaper, was the most ambitious of our ranks had hoped. But such is the trend of civilization that now the sisterhood of the world may publicly declare her interest in, and love for humanity.”

  Mary George detailed the membership of the club listing in addition to Brown, vice presidents Mary Preston, Anna Delario, and Mary Garlock, recording secretary Nellie Wilson and treasurer Harriet Balch. She further listed the directors; Emma Knight, Jeanette Harris, and May Campbell. The club colors were green and white, and the motto was “Let knowledge grow from more and more.”

 Raising children

 Mary Garlock wrote a column titled “Character Building” in which she gave guidance on the training of children, which “should never be left entirely to the teacher.” She emphasized the necessity of telling the truth, the dignity of labor, the time-tested maxim of honoring mother and father, and the importance of having books in the home.   Children won’t suffer from lacking hand painted china, she said. “But they will suffer for [lack of] a good unabridged dictionary,” suggesting that some luxury goods should be sacrificed in order to provide reference works for the children in the home.

 Anna Holliday gave an overview of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which was organized in Laramie in 1883. The Union had worked since then to ensure “the saloon business is not the money-making traffic that it was in the old territorial days.” The Union also worked hard to increase protections for girls and young women by encouraging the legislature to raise the “age of protection” (age of consent) to 18.

 Spoof on men

 The ladies of the edition did not neglect their male counterparts, but it was on the back page.  It was probably all tongue in cheek and reminiscent of the writings of the recently deceased Bill Nye, former Laramie Boomerang editor and well-known humorist.

 The lead sentence gave away the game: “The women have been kind enough to grant us this cozy column where we can have heart to heart talks with each other on our little cares and perplexities.” Men were encouraged to write to “Uncle Ned” at the Boomerang, with instructions to, “Write on the first and third pages of note paper and crosswise on the fourth and second and enclose two stamps not necessarily for publication.”

 Spoof aside, the January 1, 1900 Woman’s Edition began the new century with a unique approach, clearly showing the accomplishments of women and the level of concern they had for the well-being of their community. The entire Woman’s Edition can be viewed on line through the Wyoming State Library on the website  “newspapers.wyo.gov”—search by city: Laramie”; paper: Daily Boomerang; and choose 1900, then January 1. 

By Kim Viner

Caption:  “Business and Editorial Staff Woman’s Edition of the Boomerang,” A pose similar to one published on page 8 of the 16-page special edition. S.H. Knight identified his mother and the other women as follows (left to right): Back row: Mrs. Wilson, Jeanette Naismith Harris, Mrs. Emma Howell Knight, and Mrs. W.J. Garlock. Middle row: Mrs. Lida Eaton Fitch, Mrs. Mary G. Preston, and Mrs. Mary Godat Bellamy. Front row: Mrs. Eleanor Quackenbush Corthell and Mrs. Maud Southworth Buffum.  His identification of the first woman, “Mrs. Wilson” is possibly wrong—it may be May Preston Slosson, whose mother, the widow Mary Garlock Preston was the edition’s general editor—she lived with the Slosson family.

Photo credit:  COURTESY OF UW AMERICAN HERITAGE CENTER, S.H. KNIGHT COLLECTION