In 1869, Utah became the second territory to grant women the right to vote. Oddly enough, the law passed easily and suffrage was just given to women.
Followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints* and non-followers both agreed that women should vote but for different reasons. The non-followers in the territory felt that if women voted they would abolish plural marriage, the religion’s sanctioned right to have more than one wife. The LDS Church felt that giving women the right to vote would show that the women are not oppressed and be better for their image. Different agendas but the same result: women could vote in Utah Territory.
The first woman to vote was Seraph Young, niece of Brigham Young, who voted in a municipal election in February of 1870. Technically, this can be considered the first woman to vote. Louisa Gardner Swain of Wyoming Territory (Episode 23) was the first recorded vote of the day in that year’s Presidential Election. In addition, Wyoming never rescinded the right to vote while both New Jersey (Episode 2) and Utah Territory did.
Women in the Utah Territory lost the right to vote in 1887. The Edmunds-Tucker Act abolished the practice of plural marriage and women’s suffrage. This caused women of all faiths living in the territory to band together. In 1889, the Utah Suffrage Association was founded in association with the National Woman Suffrage Association. (NWSA, the Stanton/Anthony group) When Utah applied for statehood in 1894, the supporters made the case for it to be included in the new state constitution despite fears that it could jeopardize approval. In 1895 suffrage was written in the state constitution and in 1896 Utah became the 45th state. The Constitution Center lists Utah as the 3rd state to grant women the right to vote.
*It is currently more respectful to use the title of either Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or LDS Church when referring to the religious group created by Joseph Smith in 1830. In historical context, the term “Mormon” was originally derogatory, then adopted by the group, and now, while it is not outright offensive, it is not preferred.
Bonus: Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, quoted in this week’s graphic, is not only the first woman in America to graduate with a medical degree, she is considered to be the first female medical doctor of modern times and has a very long list of accomplishments. She is also the sister of Henry Blackwell and sister-in-law of Lucy Stone (Episode 14)
This week’s song pick:
“The Daughters” by Big Little Town https://youtu.be/aPfHdJyd_IE
Dr Elizabeth Blackwell Biography
Episode 25 Sources