Nearly a decade before the 19th amendment, Arizona women won the right to vote.
In the 19th century, women migrating to the West had opportunities not available to those in the East. These include the right to vote, equal pay for teachers, and more liberal divorce laws. Women confronted and supported the creation of the mythical rugged and untamed frontier. Contradictions between increased rights and persistent gender norms shaped their lives. Even so, the West provided fertile ground for the women's suffrage movement as Western women gained the franchise well before their Eastern sisters.
Many political leaders in Arizona, such as the state's first member of Congress, Carl Hayden, supported the expansion of women's right to vote. While Carl Hayden was in office, from 1912-27 in the House and 1927-69 in the Senate, he also supported women's suffrage. Additionally, Hayden played a critical role in amending Arizona's state constitution to allow women to vote and hold office. When the Amendment passed by more than 60 percent in 1913, Arizona granted women the right to vote in state and local elections.
Hayden's efforts drew upon a long history of movement toward equal political rights. In 1866, the Territory gave women the opportunity to vote in local school board elections. In 1887, a group of local women formed Arizona Women's Equal Rights Association (AWERA) in Phoenix. AWERA quickly expanded. The women worked tirelessly, and it is said that lawmakers submitted suffrage bills routinely in the last years of the nineteenth century.
Senator Hayden's mother, Sallie Davis Hayden, was an ardent supporter of suffrage and the expansion of women's rights. As she raised three children and ran the Hayden household, she worked on the local school board and actively participated in the local women's suffrage groups. It was there that her young son was first exposed to suffrage, the women's movement, and political activism. Additionally, Sallie Hayden created a household that demanded both physical and intellectual rigors. Young Hayden helped his mother haul water from the local river to tend to the garden and to hydrate the livestock. Mrs. Hayden also maintained a small library that included both classics of English literature and contemporary writings.
In his elective offices, first as Sheriff of Maricopa County and then as the first Representative from Arizona to Congress, the future Senator Hayden advocated for extending the right to vote. However, he and other political leaders also felt the need to negotiate the complex politics of the period, tempering their support for suffrage prior to Arizona's admittance to the Union. Hayden, among others, toned down the Territory's view on equal rights for women for fear of the President refusing them. Therefore, in 1912, Arizona won statehood into the Union, but women lacked important Territorial rights, such as the right to vote. Yet, Hayden already had a plan to get women the vote. Using unique elements of the Arizona Constitution--the civil powers of initiative and referendum--, Hayden helped bring women's suffrage to the state ballot. Through this referendum process, Arizona gave women the right to vote in November 1912, nearly a decade before women received the right to vote nationally through the 19th Amendment.
Almost immediately after the state of Arizona granted women the vote, Frances Willard Munds became the first woman in Arizona elected to a legislature. She was only the second in the nation to receive that honor. Some fifty years later, in 1960, Lorna E. Lockwood would become the first woman in U.S. history to serve as Chief Justice on a state supreme court. Carl Hayden also had recommended nominating Lockwood to President Lyndon B. Johnson when vacancies appeared on the U.S. Supreme Court. However, it would take another twenty years--when Ronald Reagan appointed another Arizona jurist, Sandra Day O'Connor--that a woman would be nominated and confirmed to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.