Mary Godat Bellamy (1861-1954)

Mary Godat Bellamy's 1910 election made Wyoming the third state to elect the nation's third state to have female presence in its legislature, following only Colorado in 1894 and Utah in 1896. 

 

  A native of Albany County, Wyoming, Mary "Mollie" Godat was a schoolteacher until she married Charles Bellamy, who holds claim to being the first licensed civil engineer in the United States. They lived in Laramie, where Charles surveyed the new Wyoming Territory, which was organized – including the enfranchisement of women -- in 1869.  He named a Snowy Mountain lake for her, using the French variant in Lake Marie.  Meanwhile, she not only reared their children, but also became the local superintendent of schools, something that was increasingly common for women in western states. 

   

Mollie Bellamy thus had lived in Laramie for some four decades when she ran for the legislature in 1910 as a Democrat.  Like many states in that era, Wyoming had at-large districts, and she won the second-highest vote among five candidates – missing first place by one vote (1,285 to 1,284). Her goals included separating male and female prisoners, establishment of the Wyoming Boys Institute, and modifying state law to allow married women to serve as the main executor of estates.  She also sponsored an eight-hour day for employed women and was an advocate for both children and animals.

   

She was such an active Democrat that Bellamy was part of a committee that officially informed President Woodrow Wilson of his re-nomination in 1916, and she also was a delegate to the 1920 Democratic National Convention.  The records of the National American Woman Suffrage Association refer to "Mrs. Mary G. Bellamy" as a "member of the Legislature," when she and other female elected officials from the West attended its 1917 convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

   

She also lobbied in Washington to extend women's enfranchisement nationally, and that presence resulted in several offers of appointed positions in the East.  Bellamy refused them, saying she would rather hold humbler jobs in the West than return to the East and lose her right to vote. In one of her better-known speeches, she said:  "Men are usually willing to elect those [women] that run. You see in Wyoming, when it comes to politics, the men don't think of women as women but as citizens. They are willing to accord us equal rights with themselves, to consider what we want, and if it seems desirable, to grant it…Between the men and the women of this state there is a sympathetic understanding and the best kind of cooperation…working together for the good of Wyoming. There is no sex antagonism here and consequently no opposition to women’s holding office."

   

The University of Wyoming granted her an honorary degree in 1951. Mary Godat Bellamy died at age 93 and was buried in Greenhill Cemetery in her hometown of Laramie.