April 21, 2017
By Casey Adams
I grew up in a small town in the mountains of Wyoming. I left for a while, then I pursued several career tracks back on the scene of Small-Mountain-Towns, Wyoming. I’ve been reflecting on my time in this state a great deal lately, then Conde Nast Traveler published an article titled, “Is Wyoming the Most Feminist State Ever?” It seemed an appropriate piece to dive into.
And reading it filled me with gratitude. Not just for Esther Hobart Morris, Grace Miller, Nellie Tayloe Ross, and the like. I was also reminded of my mother, who never hesitated to take on any challenge or opportunity I saw her face, regardless of the gender makeup of others there. Of my father, who never even hinted that there was something I couldn’t do, let alone because it was something for the boys to do. Of the female ranch owners and their daughters whose strength, knowledge, and confidence always awed me—even daunted me. Of the four women who owned and operated a community newspaper in a town of outspoken, independent individuals and gave me my first high school internship. The list goes on, and it includes the women I work with today.
I’ve been listening to the conversations about Wyoming recently: The self-bestowed and sometimes-mocked-sometimes-celebrated title of Equality State, wage gaps, this article, and the subsequent comments on it. This is my position:
In my 30 years of growing up, chasing academic dreams, stepping into jobs for which I’ve been both over- and under-qualified, pursuing athletic endeavors, recreating in the wild wonderful, and all the many things that comprise a life before a 30th birthday, I have never been made to feel inferior based on my gender in Wyoming.
I owe that to the women who came before me, and to the men who supported them and refused to stand in their way, and to the men who have done the same for me. I owe that to this landscape, whose mountains don’t care what gender you are—or even what you identify with, just that you are prepared, resilient, and humble. I owe it to the kind of communities that define rural Wyoming, the kind of places you have to want to get to because you won’t stumble upon them on your way to somewhere. The kind of towns where it doesn’t matter what you are, just who you are, and if you need a hand or if you’ve offered one.
“I know women all over Wyoming that are running ranches and horsemanship training, are outfitters and tour guides, or work for gun companies. It’s so prevalent I don’t even really think about it.” –Ashley Hlebinsky, quoted by Conde Nast Traveler.
I grew up in a small town in the mountains of Wyoming. I wasn’t a naive country bumpkin; I was raised learning to possess and use the tools necessary to take care of myself. I also never feared going for a run alone, going camping alone, embarking for college on the East Coast, driving around the 365-mile wide state alone.
So reading this Conde Nast article filled me with pride. This is a place where I don’t hesitate to tell a visiting friend to just go explore and where I find it more important to carry bear spray than pepper spray.
I am the product of small towns in Wyoming, and I don’t have enough perspective (do any of us?) to say the Equality State is the most feminist state ever. But I have experienced enough to join Conde Nast in celebrating Wyoming as an empowering place to raise a young woman, to pursue your passion as a woman, and to live and travel as a woman.