Louisa Swain

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Louisa Ann Swain (née Gardner; 1801, Norfolk, Virginia – January 25, 1880, Lutherville, Maryland) was the first woman in the United States to vote in a general election. She cast her ballot on September 6, 1870, in Laramie, Wyoming.[1][2]


Born Louisa Ann Gardner, she was the daughter of a sea captain who was lost at sea while she was 7 years old. She and her mother moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where her mother died. Orphaned, Louisa went to Baltimore to live with an uncle, Ephraim Gardner. While in Baltimore, she met and, in 1821, married Stephen Swain, who operated a chair factory. When their fourth child was six weeks old, Stephen Swain sold the chair factory and the family moved, first to Zanesville, Ohio, and later to Indiana. Soon after their son Alfred and his young family moved to the new town of Laramie, Wyoming, in 1869, the Swains joined them.[citation needed]

On September 6, 1870, she arose early, put on her apron, shawl and bonnet, and walked downtown with a tin pail in order to purchase yeast from a merchant. She walked by the polling place and concluded she would vote while she was there. The polling place had not yet officially opened, but election officials asked her to come in and cast her ballot. She was described by a Laramie newspaper as "a gentle white-haired housewife, Quakerish in appearance."[3]

She was 69 years old when she cast the first ballot by any woman in the United States in a general election. Soon after the election, Stephen and Louisa Swain left Laramie and returned to Maryland to live near a daughter. Stephen died October 6, 1872, in Maryland. Louisa died January 25, 1880, in Lutherville, Maryland. Her body was buried in the Friends Burial Ground Friends Burial Ground (Baltimore, Maryland), Harford Road, Baltimore.


The Louisa Swain Foundation was established in 2001 (as the Laramie Foundation) and is dedicated to preserving and celebrating Swain's heritage and history and "fostering education in the areas of democracy, human rights and suffrage".[4] The Foundation runs the Wyoming House for Historic Women (also known as the Woming Women's History House) in Laramie, Wyoming, which celebrates thirteen women including Swain. A statue in her honor was dedicated in front of the museum in 2005.[5]

September 6, 2008 was recognized by Congress as Louisa Swain day via House Concurrent Resolution 378.[6]


  1. ^ Beeton, Beverly (1986). Women vote in the West: the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1869–1896. New York: Garland Science. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-8240-8251-2.
  2. ^ Danilov, Victor J. (2005). Women and museums: a comprehensive guide. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-7591-0854-7.
  3. ^ "69 year old woman votes in general election in Laramie". Laramie Daily Sentinel. September 7, 1870.
  4. ^ "About the Foundation". Louisa Swain Foundation. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  5. ^ "The Wyoming House For Historic Women". thelouisaswainfoundation.com. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Expressing support for designation of September 6, 2008, as Louisa Swain Day". 110th Congress of the United States of America. 2008-09-27.

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