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Wyoming Supreme Court Celebrates Women With 'Equality Hall'

At the Wyoming Supreme Court building, a new art exhibition, located in the aptly named Equality Hall, is set to debut in early February. The exhibition celebrates the contributions of women to the law and honors many of Wyoming's women who broke new legal ground. Notably, Wyoming, which adopted the nickname the Equality State, was the first state to pass women's suffrage, as well as actually allow women to vote, serve on juries, and hold public office.

On the North side of Equality Hall, portraits of some of the most influential women in the state's history will hang, including the first woman admitted to the state's bar, the first woman judge, as well as the first woman governor (who was elected back in 1925). On the South side of the hall, there will be facts about, and shadowboxes depicting artifacts of, the first women in the legal field that made significant contributions.

Of All Places, Why Wyoming?

Interestingly, as noted above, Wyoming was well ahead of the curve when it came to laws promoting gender equality. In addition to voting rights, and the right to hold public offices, Wyoming also passed a law granting women property rights separate from their husbands, as well as a law requiring female teachers be paid the same as male teachers.

However, despite these seemingly forward-thinking laws, the true motivation for the state's pro-women laws were to attract women to move to the state to offset the overwhelmingly male population in the mid-to-late nineteenth century (though it continues to today). Furthermore, and rather surprisingly, gender equality is far from being achieved in the state, despite the nickname.

According to a 2012 report, Wyoming had the largest pay gap in the country, with women making 65 cents to every dollar a man makes, dragging down the national average of 73 cents. Additionally, over the past couple years, the state's legislature has actually lost a few percentage points toward gender equality. In 2015-16, the percent of women in the state legislature fell to 13% from 16% and 17% in 2014 and 2013.

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