Louisa Ann Swain (1800/01-1878) cast a ballot in a general election on September 6, 1870, in Laramie, Wyoming, becoming the first woman to legally do so since 1807, the year New Jersey took away a woman’s right to vote. Orphaned at around 10 years old in Charleston, South Carolina, she was sent by an orphanage home to learn needlework, spinning, and weaving in the homes of two different women. Sometime around 1821, she met and married Steven Swain, the owner of a chair factory. The two lived in Baltimore for a time and had four children. Swain and her husband then began moving west, first to Ohio and then Indiana. After one of her son’s moved to Wyoming, Swain and her husband followed and settled in Laramie to be close to him. Shortly after casting her historic ballot, Swain and her husband moved back to Baltimore to live near their daughter. Swain died in 1878 and is buried in Baltimore. In October 2008, Congress passed a resolution making September 6, 2008 “Louisa Swain Day.” The day continues to be celebrated annually in Laramie. There is also a statue of Swain in downtown Laramie.
Louisa Ann Swain, ca. 1860
Swain (1801-1880) was the first woman in the United States to vote in a general election. She cast her ballot on September 6, 1870, in Laramie, Wyoming. She had moved with her husband Stephen Swain to Laramie in 1869 to join their son Alfred. Soon after the election, Stephen and Louisa Swain left Laramie and returned to Maryland to live near a daughter.
"Taming the Wild West," newspaper article by Katherine Scarborough, ca. 1950
Baltimore Sun newspaper columnist Katherine Scarborough writes of Swain's family history, mostly in Maryland. Also mentioned is Swain's great-granddaughter Mrs. George Evans (Edna) of Lutherville, Maryland.
Letter from Edna C. Evans to T.A. Larson, Director, American Studies Program, University of Wyoming, circa May 1960
Louisa Swain's great-daughter Edna Evans writes to Wyoming historian T.A. Larson of items she is sending to him that either belonged to Swain or are in regards to her.
Saucer from set of china belonging to Louisa Swain
Edna Evans wrote to T.A. Larson: "The saucer was one of those left from the set which she took with her when she went west as a young woman."
Silver teaspoon, engraved "LS to MC"
Edna Evans wrote to T.A. Larson: "The silver spoon with the initials are teaspoons which Louise Swain had made from silver spoons Grandmother Swain had & gave to my grandmother."
Woman's embroidered scarf
This is one of the items that Swain's great-granddaughter Edna Evans sent to Wyoming historian T.A. Larson that belonged to Louisa Swain.
Infant dress, lace trim, hand-stitched
Edna Evans wrote to T.A. Larson:" The little infant garments were the ones my great-grandmother made up for my [gramp?]."
Infant christening gown, hand-stitched
More infant garments made by Swain for her children.