The 2004 legislature will have 33 women members out of 100. If someone had told Amos Steck of that number 133 years ago, he would have been amazed, but not necessarily surprised.
There is an unknown hero in the Colorado battle to give women the right to vote. His name is Amos Steck. One hundred and ten years ago, Nov. 7, 1893, Colorado male voters recognized women should have the right to vote, 35,798 to 29,451. But Steck knew it was the right thing to do back in 1870 during the eighth session of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Colorado.
On Jan. 4, 1870, Territorial Governor Edward M. McCook addressed the 13 member Council (now called the Senate) and the 26 member House. One portion of his speech covered female suffrage:
Amos Steck, a Republican from Denver/Arapahoe, was appointed chairman of the Council committee to consider this part of the governor's message. On Jan. 19, 1870, he presented a nine-page report to the Council. We cannot reproduce his entire report but we can provide excerpts. He tied the vote for women to the means for profitable employment.
"Give to women employment, put into her hand the ballot as means by and through which she may demand and enforce her claims to such employment, for which she is as well fitted as her brother..."
"The integrity of the opinion of women, the desire to be right and to do justice, whatever the results, we believe, as a rule, to be stronger in women than in men. Familiarize her with political questions, with all the details which men habitually examine as political partisans, and women in that respect becomes fully equal to the man."
"Why should man and woman quarrel any more when both vote, than when the husband votes alone? What is there in the relation of mother, sister, or daughter, that is incompatible with the relation of elector..."
"What we insist upon is the opportunity for women to choose for themselves what they are best fitted to perform. And to that end we insist that women be clothed with the ballot, to enforce their claims to enter upon any of the labors of life for which they may deem themselves qualified equally well with man..."
"We see no cause to shut out women from any of the civil offices necessary to be filled, however high and important they may be. We think that in places where integrity and high moral purpose is requisite, we may with great safety commit such trusts to women..."
"Your committee therefor recommends...the enactment of such laws as will permit them to stand equal in all respects with men before the law."
Well, the 1870 territorial bill for suffrage for women did not pass, and when the question was put on the ballot in 1877, it lost 14,053 to 6,612. The bill that did pass Nov. 7, 1893, HB 118, was sponsored by Rep. J.T. Heath, a Populist from Montrose and Delta counties.
Amos Steck served in the first, second, seventh and eighth territorial legislatures, and was a member of the state Senate from 1891 through 1894. Did Steck in 1894 remember his words of 1870? "We see no cause to shut out women from any of the civil offices necessary to be filled, however high and important they may be."
Surely he did remember.
In the 1894 election, three Republican women were elected to the 1895 Colorado House. They were the first women ever elected to serve in a state legislature anywhere in the U.S.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House and is an "amateur historian".)
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