Celebrate Women’s History Month in Cody Yellowstone. Here’s How Women Made – and are Still Making – this Classic Northern Wyoming Destination a Better Place
CODY, Wyo., February 23, 2023 – With Women’s History Month around the corner, Cody Yellowstone is celebrating the many women who have strengthened the community in countless ways such as launching innovative events and attractions and enriching its cultural and artistic offerings. For a whole lot of reasons, town founder and equality advocate Buffalo Bill Cody would be proud.
Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody was a champion of fairness and equality for women. He paid female “Wild West Show” performers such as sharpshooters Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane
the same as he paid male performers. In what must have been shocking words in the late 1800s, Buffalo Bill said: “If a woman can do the same work that a man can do and do it just as well, she should have the same pay.”
“Although he was certainly a tough frontiersman with a gift for swagger, Buffalo Bill Cody was also pragmatic,” said Ryan Hauck, executive director of Cody Yellowstone, the marketing arm for the region that includes the towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse, parts of the Shoshone National Forest and a large swath of Yellowstone National Park. “He didn’t pay his female employees the same as their male counterparts for the headlines. He did it because he was fair-minded and a true believer in gender equality.”
Cody’s sentiment about gender equality is one that has been shared by many Wyoming leaders throughout its history.
Wyoming led the way for women’s suffrage
In 1869, the Territory of Wyoming became the first territory to grant suffrage to women. The story of how the all-male legislature reached that decision is as wild and meandering as the Shoshone River on an early spring day, with elements of political gamesmanship, greed, bigotry and pragmatism. But mostly, it was because of love. Or lack of it. The miners, ranchers, railroad men, shopkeepers, cowboys and entrepreneurs of Wyoming were lonely, and there were only so many young, single teachers to go around. The leaders of the territory realized they would have to make it more appealing if they wanted to entice women to its boundaries. After a series of precursory laws that allowed women to sit in on legislative sessions, granted equal pay for teachers and guaranteed property rights, the legislature finally voted to grant suffrage on Dec. 10, 1869. It would be another 51 years before the 19th Amendment was passed giving all citizens, regardless of gender, the right to vote.
Where and How to Celebrate the Noteworthy Women of Wyoming
Head to the Buffalo Bill Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Mary Jester Allen was Buffalo Bill Cody’s niece, and she played an important and lasting role in the history of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Thanks to her tireless cajoling and elegant persuasion, numerous members of the Cody family supported the establishment of the museum by donating their personal Buffalo Bill objects. The Buffalo Bill Museum is now one of five museums at the Center of the West.
Dance the night away at Cassie’s Supper Club. Widowed at a young age, Cassie Waters founded one of the town’s most successful houses of prostitution in 1912. She became known
as a generous civic leader who often was among the first in line when contributions were needed for schools or charitable organizations. Although she complied when townspeople pressured her to move her bustling business to the outskirts of town, she continued to support the town in numerous ways until her death. Cassie’s Supper Club remains a popular destination for dining and dancing.
Visit Heart Mountain WW II Interpretive Center. Estelle Ishigo was a Caucasian woman who chose to remain at her Japanese-American husband’s side when he was imprisoned at the Heart Mountain Confinement Site during World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor. A talented artist, Ishigo chronicled the day-to-day lives of the 14,000 camp residents with sketches, drawings and watercolors depicting the brutal conditions of the camp and camp life. Her artistic creations are among the many poignant exhibits on display at the Heart Mountain WW Interpretive Center today.
Check out the Draper Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Nancy-Carroll Draper was a dedicated benefactor and supporter of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, and she played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Draper Museum of Natural History. Draper believed that the Center could and should integrate the natural sciences with humanities to provide visitors to the museum with a broader perspective on the American West. The museum’s innovative exhibits provide a memorable orientation to the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
Relax with a “Death in the Afternoon” cocktail at the Chamberlin Inn. Agnes Chamberlin was the owner and proprietress of the Chamberlin Inn, now a centrally located boutique hotel that is a popular gathering place. She opened the hotel as a boardinghouse in 1900 and gradually expanded the building and added touches of luxury. The hotel was the place to be and be seen, and she often hosted high-profile guests like Ernest Hemingway and Marshall Fields. She was a civic leader who founded the Cody Women’s Club and often hosted Cody Club Chamber meetings. The Chamberlin Inn’s Spirits Lounge features a variety of specialty cocktails.
Enjoy a brew and a Reuben sandwich at the all-female owned- and- operated Pat’s Brew House. Owners Norfleet Gifford and Ariel Fishman offer some of the best sandwiches
in town, while brewer Alexandria Cain brews up original recipes in a variety of styles. Pat’s Brew House offers a fun and lighthearted atmosphere just steps away from Sheridan Ave., Cody’s main street.
Visit the Plains Indian Museum at Buffalo Bill Center of the West. The museum’s assistant curator, Hunter Old Elk, has worked with the Plains Indian Museum staff to develop exhibits that explore the historic and contemporary cultures and traditions of Plains Indians peoples. Old Elk is a member of the Apsáalooke (Crow) and Yakama Nations.
Pick up a copy of the Cody Enterprise newspaper (and head to the Cody Stampede this summer). Caroline Lockhart was the editor and publisher of the Cody Enterprise as well as a best-selling novelist with a penchant for fraternizing with Hollywood and society
types and a reputation for flouting societal norms. She was a passionate horsewoman who jubilantly supported almost any initiative that promoted Western heritage or honored the memory of her dear friend Buffalo Bill Cody, who died in 1917. In 1920, she and other town leaders promoted the idea of staging the Cody Stampede, a rodeo event, on July 4. The Cody Stampede grew over time, and today it is a five-day celebration that not only includes rodeo but also parades, festivals and other special events.
Raft the Shoshone River with Wyoming River Trips or take a packrafting trip with Wyoming Rivers Cooperative. Elyse Guarino co-owns both companies with her partner,
Landon Blanchard. She is a tireless advocate for responsible recreation and critical thinking about one’s own outdoor and environmental ethics. She’s been an outdoor educator for 17 years in the mountains, canyons and on rivers around the West.
Go shopping in downtown Cody and be sure to stop at Cowtown Candy and Sunlight Sports. Both businesses were started and
later sold by Sandy Newsome, a State Legislator (House District 24) and business owner who sits on numerous state boards and lobbies at the state level to promote the Wyoming Tourism industry.
Ship home some farm-raised beef from the Pitchfork Ranch in Meeteetse. Manager Lindsey Anson is dedicated to promoting authentic Western traditions and serves as a #WildWatch Ambassador for Cody Yellowstone. Much of her work is focused on making the historic ranch increasingly sustainable.
Home of the Great American Adventure, Cody Yellowstone is comprised of the northwestern Wyoming towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as areas inside of Yellowstone National Park and the valley east of the entrance. The region is known for rodeos, authentic guest and dude ranches, world-class museums and recreational adventures that reflect the adventurous spirit of the visionaries and explorers who brought the remote region to the world’s attention.
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