The “Petticoat Rulers” Ran a Wyoming Frontier Town In the 1920s

While the United States continues to lag in terms of female leadership statistics, one unlikely town became known for unprecedented progressiveness a century ago. In 1920, Jackson, Wyoming, had an all-female ticket nicknamed the “petticoat rulers,” who established order in the Wild West town. Jackson was a rugged place to live at the time, and equally as difficult to settle. While the town had a strong community where everyone helped each other out, there was very little emphasis on government and civil responsibility. On May 11, 1920, Jackson elected Grace Miller as mayor and Rose Crabtree, Mae Deloney, Faustina Haight, and Genevieve Van Vleck as council members. The five women claimed victory of an all-male roster, and Crabtree even beat out her own husband. The election drew the most voters the town had seen up to that point, and in many cases the women dominated their male opponents by a margin of 2-to-1. The all-woman town council stepped up and shaped the town into the place it is today. They graded the streets, expanded electrical service, installed street lamps, established the first town cemetery, and built the town’s budget to be able to continue serving community members. According to a 1922 article, there was only $200 in the town’s coffers when the women took office, mainly due to uncollected fines and taxes. The women went out personally and collected every cent due the town from those who ignored the notices. Within two weeks, there was $2,000 in the treasury. As for what inspired the women to effect lasting change, their methods and motives were very simple. They worked together, they put into practice the same thrifty principles they exercised in their own homes, and they kept a clean, well-kept, progressive town in which they could raise their families. After all, what is good government but fertile ground for good citizenship?