"I get frustrated with the lack of knowledge that most young women have about where we -- me and my foremothers -- came through to get them what they have today." - Kayne Pyatt
Kayne Pyatt is a reporter for the Uinta County Herald and worked as an Assistant Professor of Communication in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
She was born in Western Kansas and her family migrated to Wyoming in the 1950s.
She has been a lifetime advocate for women's and human rights in a variety of careers and volunteer work.
She explains why her role model is her mother, how things have changed for women over the years, and how to educate young women about suffrage and women's rights.
•Why Kayne Pyatt's family moved to Wyoming
•Kayne Pyatt's earliest female mentor
•Why Kayne's mother is her role model
•What Kayne's spiritual upbringing was like
•How things have changed for women over the years
•Ways to educate young women about suffrage and women's rights
Welcome to First But Last, brought to you by the Wyoming Humanities. I am your
host, Emy diGrappa. Wyoming is called the Equality State because we were the first
to give women the right to vote. One hundred and fifty years later, we wonder what
Wyoming women think about the progress toward equality now. Let's find out, and
thank you for listening.
Today we are talking to Kayne Pyatt. She has been employed as a reporter for the
Uinta County Herald. She's worked as an assistant professor of communication in
Rock Springs, but most importantly, Kayne has been a lifetime advocate for women
and human rights in a variety of careers and volunteer work. Welcome, Kayne.
Where did you grow up?
Well, I was born in western Kansas, but my family moved around a lot because my
father was in, uh, radio, and there's always a greener pasture somewhere else.
(laughs) And my family migrated to Wyoming in the 1950s, and I call Evanston my
home, because I've lived here longer than any other place.
Oh, okay. Well, since 1950, that is a long time.
Well, I, too, as an adult, have moved away and come back. It seems like no matter
where I go, I always wander back to Wyoming. And I've lived in other, other towns in
Wyoming and also other states, lived in Iowa for seven years, and still came back to
So, I have a couple of questions. When I introduced you, and it really seemed that
when I was reading your bio, that your passion has been in your work as an
advocate for women and human rights. And so, the first thing I wanted to ask you
is, who is your earliest female mentor or role model?
Well, I'd have to say my mother. My mother was a very strong, quiet, not probably
as social as I have always been, but a very strong woman, and had been through a
lot in her life, and valued education and standing on your own two feet, and that
you could do anything if you really followed it and pursued it. So I'd have to say my
mother, even though as a small child, my dad was my hero and I followed him
around. I remember when I was about five years old, standing at the screen door in
our house, crying and crying and crying because my dad was leaving and going
somewhere, and I wouldn't get to go with him. I'll never forget that, because as I
stood there in the screen door, I saw all these flies landing on the screen door, and
my mother finally coming to get me and comforting me.
But I, I used to follow my dad around when I was older, even, when he sold ads for
the radio station. And it, I admired the fact that he was so, it was so easy for him to
communicate with people, and with strangers. And my dad was 50 when I was born.
He was born in 1892, and my mother was 23, 25 years younger than him. And so, it
was like I had these two different time eras growing up with, and almost two
different value systems, really. But both of 'em believed in hard work and had a
strong work ethic, and that was passed down to me and my sisters.
So, Kayne, tell me about your passion that you have for advocating for women and
the work that you've done in that area.
Okay. Well, I think it started when I was in Kindergarten, and having grown up on
what we called Radio Ranch, my dad had gone into business and built his own radio
with a partner, radio station, and in front of that, we had our home, a ranch, and
had horses. And so, I grew up around horses and fol-, and again, following my dad
around. And when I was in Kind-, and so I wore jeans a lot, bib overalls and jeans
with suspenders. And when I was in Kindergarten, this was in Kansas back in the
'40s, and I was told that I couldn't wear pants to school, I couldn't wear jeans to
And also, I was left-handed, and my mom and the teacher wanted to force me to be
right-handed. And my mom went to the school and argued with the teacher (laughs)
and I got to wear my jeans, and I stayed left-handed.
And I think, (laughs) I think that that instilled in me this question of why, just
because I'm a girl, do I have to wear dresses and can't wear jeans, when my whole
life on the ranch was riding horses and being outside, and riding a horse in a dress
is just not very comfortable. So, it instilled in me this desire, I think maybe
unconsciously, that things weren't just quite right for girls, and that I was gonna
And so, as I grew, I also grew up in a time with, with Cinderella's story and life was
supposed to, you know, as a, as a young girl and as a woman, you were to get
married, have children, make your husband happy, and that was supposed to be the
perfect life. And I think I was pretty naïve. I grew up in a fairly traditional home. My
dad went to work, my mom stayed home. And so, uh, so partly what developed this
passion about things weren't quite right and, and I wanted to change them, had to
do with a lot of experiences.
Getting pregnant at 16 and married and having four children by the time I was 25,
Getting a divor-, yeah. (laughs) And getting a divorce 10 years later, and not being
able to buy a car without my dad's signature, finding that credit cards were, women
just didn't get them alone, women didn't get credit alone. And facing those
roadblocks made that desire to change things even stronger. And I remember as a
teenager, because I was so involved with horses, that my dad was in the Stage
Riders Mounted Posse, which was here in Evanston, and they would be in parades
and then, if the sheriff's department needed to call out people for a search and
rescue, that mounted posse went.
And I thought it would be neat if there was a junior mounted posse, young people.
So I organized it, I got people, friends that were horse, horse people, boys and girls,
and we had a meeting and we organized and we set up a sort of, what we'd call
today, bylaws. And my dad took it to the sheriff's mounted posse and they agreed
to sponsor us as the junior mounted posse, but a girl could not be president.
And so, I got, I was just furious about that and, and hurt, because I had done all the
work to organize it and get it set up and writing the bylaws, and so I dropped out.
And early on in my life, you know, that was a way girls, that was our responses. It's
like if you suffered sexual harassment of any kind or discrimination, you just kept
your mouth shut and did something else. And so, I dropped out of that, but that
stayed with me forever.
And I think, I've come to think in my 77 years that there's a thread, a subconscious
thread or, that leads us from childhood all through our lives. And one day I sat down
and was writing in my journal and I, and I wrote some things about how all the
themes and the dreams I had as a child, as an adult, subconsciously, that I have
experienced those, or in reality I've experienced those. So whether subconsciously
or the universe or whatever you wanna call it, I don't call it fate, but the universe
was sort of offering these doors to me, and I would open them, but I see that
So, for instance, as a child, my sisters and I used to play school a lot, and my
younger sister said to me one time as an adult, she said, "You know, you used to
make me so mad because you would never let me be the teacher." And I grew up to
not consciously really planning it, but ended up going to college, getting a master's
degree and teaching college. And I, I guess I'm a firm believer in positive
affirmations, and sometimes those affirmations-
May come, just like as a child, it was a dream or the dream to -- I used to read every
Zane Gray book there was and I was really fascinated with the West, and having
moved here when we, to Evanston when I was 12 years old, and then always having
horses from the time I was five years old, I was riding horses -- I was fascinated with
the West and always thought it would have been wonderful to be a pioneer and be
on a wagon train. Well, in 1990, I organized and led the Wyoming Centennial Wagon
Train from Fort Caspar to Cody.
And, and that wasn't conscious, you know, it's sort of like those dreams that, uh, to
write. I always wanted to be a writer. And as a child, my sisters and I would cut out
pictures out of magazines and write about 'em and I would pretend I was a reporter.
And now I'm a reporter at 77. Oh, it's just amazing to me how wonderful the
universe is. And a friend of mine once said, "You know, our own lives aren't any of
our business, I guess." (laughs) But in other words, kind of the universe has got this,
these doors for us, and I guess it's our job to just become aware and open those
And so, back to the women, I think all those things that I experienced in my youth
and then after a 10-year marriage with a husband who was unfaithful to me
throughout that whole entire 10 years, getting a divorce, being a single mom. And I
have to be honest, I, you know, still believed in that Cinderella fairy tale, went
through four marriages, four divorces. Most of the time, still feeling like a single
mom raising four kids, slowly began to lose that, that fantasy reality and realizing
that nobody but me was ever going to change my life or make my life better.
And so, I went back to college, got my, uh, with four kids, got my associate's
degree, and then 10 years later, went back again and got my master's. When I got
my bachelor's and then my master's, my oldest daughter and my son and I were all
in college together, and-
Oh, I love that!
I love that.
So, some of the things I've done with women is when- in my second marriage, I
lived in Iowa for seven years and I had the opportunity to become a Vista volunteer,
a locally-recruited Vista volunteer, and worked with a sexual assault and domestic
violence program. And later, went on to become the director of that program, and
that just, again, was that desire to make changes for women, and this was an
opportunity to do that.
And when I came back to Evanston after my divorce, I started a sexual assault and
family violence program here in Evanston. And I had just a barely squeak-by job at
that time, but, and all my other hours organizing that and was involved in the
League of Women Voters at one time. And then I started, when I came back here
again, (laughs) after getting my masters in Salt Lake City, I started doing women's
retreats. And we would go to the mountains, camp out. It was wonderful. I think I've
spent probably 10 years of my life doing those women's retreats, both privately and
then when I taught at Western Wyoming College, I had, I held women's retreats
there, was involved in organizing the women's conferences.
And then went to, I had the wonderful opportunity to go to a Goddess Conference in
England, and led by a wonderful woman who traveled all over the world gathering
up arti-, she was an artist and created artistic flags of all the different goddesses
across the world. And so, from that, I became so interested in that I wanted to teach
the feminine mythology, and so I researched, self-taught, and developed curriculum
to teach that at Western. And I used to have waiting lists, I'd let 30 students into my
class and I used to have waiting lists to get into that class, both men and women. It
was wonderful. It was a great experience, and saw young women really grow from
learning about prehistory and pre-Christianity roots of when women had more
power and equality. And, oh.
Is that in, uh, the class that you-
Were teaching feminism-
In mythology? Okay, and what was your spiritual upbringing?
Well, my spiritual upbringing, as a child, my parents, Sunday was always church.
And when we lived in Kansas, I think the church that they attended was called the
First Christian Church, and then when we moved to Wyoming, there was no church,
no denomination called that, so we joined the First American Baptist Church. And so,
I always grew up with religion and I always felt like I was a spiritual person, but
when I went back to college, in Westminster College to get my degree, one of the
first classes I taught, and actually, I went back to college to get my bachelors
because I thought I wanted to be an Episcopal priest.
And I took a archeology class and an anthropology class, and grew. And from that, I
decided, no, and throughout this whole growing process, I realized that traditional
religion just wasn't for me. And I'm still a spiritual person, but I, I experience that
more in connection with the earth and with what some people call pagan. But
pagan, really the definition of pagan means people of the earth. So I, I had my own
sense of spiritual connection with the earth, with the universe. I guess I'd say it's
more like star-, Star Wars. (laughs)
Yeah. Let the force be with you. (laughs)
The force be with you, okay, and-
And so, through your journey and discovering, you know, the, the pitfalls that are
created for women and how they fall into 'em, and how you fell into the Cinderella
syndrome and, and then, you know, pulled yourself outta that. But, you know, how
have things changed over the years for women? How do you see that? And what do
you see as positive, that is happening?
Well, I think one positive thing that just comes quickly to my mind is how older
women, especially, are given more voice. Not enough, but because I think there is
age discrimination, but even Hollywood is recognizing the need for more movies,
more productions, that involve older women in strong positions. More and more
women are getting into higher levels of political positions, though I don't think
enough. And I have to tell you, I cried when Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the
race, because I wanna live long enough to see a woman president. I lived long
enough to see an African American president, but I wanna see a woman president.
And one thing I thought when Obama was elected was, during the whole suffragist
movement, in the split between the suffragists because some wanted to include the
right for women to vote with the 15th Amendment for African American men to get
the right to vote and that whole thing. African American men got the right to vote
before white women or any woman, and I thought Obama being elected, not only do
I think he's an admirable person, but also as the catalyst for, okay, so we came
second after them getting them right to vote, now maybe we will president now.
So, I think we haven't, we're not there yet. I see mostly women working in
restaurants and cafes in Wyoming, and I know that they're making less than
minimum wage and they depend on their tips for survival. My heart goes out to
them right now with this crisis, that they're laid off, they're not working. I mean,
thank heavens there's gonna be some help from the federal government. But
women, in many, many cases, are the, uh, their families depend on them. They are
the bread winners today. And so, I, I think we've got a long way to go.
I also get a little frustrated, even with my own granddaughters, that they just take
for granted what they have today and they don't seem to really want more or
wanna achieve more or want to strive for more. I, I, a lot of the young women I had
in feminine mythology class, I, I think I saw them grow and I've seen them, and in
fact, many I've come into contact with 'cause Wyoming's a small world, have really
gone on to make themselves proud of where they've, where they've gone and the
jobs and careers that they're moving into.
But I, I get frustrated with the lack of knowledge that most young women have
about where we, me and my foremothers, came through to get them what they
have today. So-
Well, what can we do to change that? What can we do to mentor young women to
open their eyes to what, what has gone before and the work that they need to do to
keep it going?
Well, I think teachers are important for that. I felt like I was doing that when I was
teaching at the college, 'cause I taught communication classes as well, and I often
think, you know, that whatever course we're teaching, it's a vehicle for what other
things we can teach. And so I think role modeling, actually giving them information
that they're not getting. And on the suffragette movement, what we did here in
Evanston is that we had an event, we organized a group, a 19th Amendment
committee and all through the last year, we had an event every month. And one of
'em in June was a parade, and we actually had four little girls, under teen years,
they were like, 10, 11, 12, who joined us in that parade.
And I think just that modeling and that getting the education out to 'em. I'm thrilled
today to see more and more children's books on famous women and, and on the
suffragette movement, and on the civil rights movement, and on women who made
a difference in the past. So I think writers, teachers, women who are in politics, who
can mentor and role model for young girls. Take 'em with 'em, let 'em spend a day
or two in the, in their legislature with 'em, watching it. I just, sometimes I feel really
hopeless, (laughs) and then some-, somebody like Greta Thunberg will come along
and, and I, my heart just swells at what young people are doing, uh, regarding
climate change. And so, it's a slow process. (laughs)
Change is always slow.
Yes, it is.
But I'm glad that you've had these rich experiences, not just for yourself, but also
teaching class and, and influencing other young women, and helping them, you
know, see that they, they have their own power.
I love it, and I, I'd like to add, too, that I'm a director and on the board of our
community theater here, Sagebrush Theater, and one o' the things that I try to do is
influence the board to pick plays that aren't just silly and aren't just always comedy,
but have a message and that involve young people. And that, and to get more
young people involved and put them on the board, and try to, try to get more and
more young women to get involved in the arts. I think that's a way where they begin
to explore. Once you're involved in the arts, I truly believe in a liberal arts
education, and I think through a liberal arts education, you're exposed to so many
different ideas, so ment-, many different spots and ways of living, that it can't help
but have an influence on young people.
Well, since I work for the Wyoming Humanities-
I could not agree more. (laughs) That's so true. I, hundred, a hundred percent agree
with that. But thank you so much, Kayne. Thank you-
For talking to me today.
Thank you. I've really enjoyed it. Thanks, Emy.
Thank for listening to First But Last, brought to you by the Wyoming Humanities.
Please join us again next week as we continue our conversations with women from
around the state. You can also find us at thinkwy.org., where we continue the
conversation on our blog about the history, journey, and the challenges of
Wyoming's intrepid women living in the Equality State. And if you enjoyed this
episode, please subscribe to the show and leave us a review on iTunes. Thank you
"The universe has these doors for us and it's our job to just become aware and open those doors." - Kayne Pyatt