Suffrage and Stories of Utah Women

Centennial of Women’s Suffrage: Stories of Utah Women

Maren Peterson History, News and Events Leave a Comment

The year 2020 marks the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment being passed! It was ratified in August of 1920 by the thirty-six states needed to add it to the Constitution, and then white women had the right to vote nationwide. It took several more decades for this right to be extended to minorities. We will start celebrating this anniversary with an event at the Utah State Capitol with our friends from Better Days 2020. Join us on January 15, 2020 on the fourth floor of the Capitol Building for an opening reception from 6-8 p.m.

To highlight this monumental anniversary, the Utah Division of Archives and Records Service will be highlighting stories of Utah women. From women who participated in the World Wars, to the first female legislators, to the women of color who worked tirelessly to help their communities succeed, their stories will be told throughout the year from the records that are stored at the archives.

A Brief History of Utah Women’s Suffrage

In 1870, fifty years before the 19th Amendment was passed, white women in Utah were given the right to vote. Seraph Young was the first woman in the nation to vote. On February 14, 1870 Young made history by marking her ballot for the Salt Lake City municipal election and dropping it in the box.

Clip of 1870 bill file
“Act conferring upon women the elective franchise” in 1870 Acts and Bills
Legislative Assembly Territorial legislative records (Series 3150)

Utah women didn’t hold the right to vote for the continuous fifty years between the 1870 bill and the 19th Amendment. In 1887 the Edmunds-Tucker Act was passed by Congress. The bill targeted those practicing polygamy, the act of having two or more wives, but it also stripped women of the right to vote. Women in Utah had been voting as a block to keep polygamy legal. For them it was an issue of religious freedom. It wasn’t until the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially abandoned the practice that Utah was allowed to become a state. In the State Constitution women were once again given the right to vote.

Article 4 Elections and Rights of Suffrage
“Constitution of the State of Utah, Article 4: Elections and Rights of Suffrage”
Statehood Constitutional Convention State Constitution (Series 3214)

Rights for white women grew in Utah from their enfranchisement in 1870 to 1920. By the time the 19th Amendment was being considered, women were holding office in Utah. In the Utah Senate, Senator Elizabeth Hayward presented the resolution to support the 19th Amendment. The Senate voted unanimously to approve the amendment. In the Utah House, Representative Grace Stratton Airey read the bill and the amendment was passed unanimously in the House as well.

Secretary of State Legislative bills (Series 4076)

To learn more about women in Utah, look at our online collection of documents relating to women’s suffrage or visit the website Better Days 2020.

Sources

House Journal Special Session of the Thirteenth Session of the Legislature of the State of Utah 1919. Salt Lake City, UT:The F. W. Gardiner Co, 1919.

Senate Journal Special Session of the Thirteenth Session of the Legislature of the State of Utah 1919. Salt Lake City, UT:The F. W. Gardiner Co, 1919.

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