Immerse yourself in stories of women who shaped history
Wyoming Territory was the first to grant women voting rights, in December 1869. Utah Territory granted women the vote several weeks later, on February 12, 1870. Women in Salt Lake City voted two days after that, making them the first women to vote in the modern nation. Many women in Utah were like Esther Morris, fighting for their rights, running for and serving in political offices, and involving themselves in their local communities.
- What kinds of things did Esther learn by example in her own family growing up?
- How did Esther handle challenges in her life, especially when people told her she couldn’t do something?
- Why did Esther want to vote?
- What personal characteristics did Esther have that you also have? How did these characteristics help Esther accomplish her goals? How might they help you?
- What things would you like to do or change today? What’s the first step you can take to start working on them?
Many young girls in Utah watched their mentors, aunts, mothers, and older sisters fight for suffrage. The road to the passage of the 19th Amendment took 72 years, so these young girls grew into adults who continued the fight for women’s voting rights. For example, Annie Wells Cannon was eleven years old when women in Utah were first granted suffrage in 1870. Her mother, Emmeline B. Wells, was Utah’s leading suffragist and good friends with Susan B. Anthony. Annie not only helped her mother write and edit the women’s rights newspaper, the Woman’s Exponent, she grew up to be a suffragist and a Utah state legislator.
- Why do you think some people didn’t want women to vote?
- How would you feel if someone told you that you could not vote when you grow up?
- Bessie and Rita did things like make posters and lick envelopes as part of the suffrage cause. What could you do in your community at your age to help with a cause you believe in?
- Is there a woman who is a role model to you? How does her example inspire you to make a difference in your community?
Cows were the motivation for the Smith sisters to become politically active in their community, and cows were the motivation for five women in Kanab, Utah, to also get involved in local politics. In the early 1900s, women in Kanab were frustrated by the mess being caused by cows and other farm animals running loose around the city. It was dirty, smelly and made it difficult to walk down the street or drive a wagon on the road. Men had always been in charge of running the town, but they weren’t doing anything about the problems in Kanab. So women in Kanab decided to run for office to make changes, and they won they mayorship and all four town commissioner seats! The women took their new leadership roles seriously. They passed laws to punish animal owners who didn’t keep their animals fenced in and did many other things to clean up their town. Like the Smith sisters, the Kanab women weren’t afraid to stand up and make a difference.
Utah women also were not happy about being taxed without the right to vote. Taxation without representation was one of the main arguments given by pro-suffragists for including equal suffrage in the Utah State Constitution in 1895.
- The Smith sisters were against “taxation without representation.” What does that mean? What did they do to try to change things?
- The leaders of Glastonbury were all men, and they decided that women should pay higher taxes. Have you ever noticed men and women (or boys and girls) being treated differently? How does it make you feel? Why do you think this happens? What can be done to change this?
- When the city took the sisters’ cows in place of the tax payment, how did the townsfolk support Abby and Julia? How have you seen people in your community support others?
- What important things would you like to do or change? What’s the first step you can take to start working on them today?
Even though laws are written and passed, sometimes these laws aren’t fairly enforced. In the case of voting rights, throughout history many states and the federal government have passed restrictive laws and practices making voting difficult if not impossible for various groups of people. Examples: 1) after the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1870, giving black men the right to vote, some states and counties still prevented African Americans from voting by passing their own restrictive laws. 2) Congress passed laws in 1924 that granted U.S. citizenship (and voting rights) to all American Indians, even those living on reservations under sovereign indigenous nations. But American Indians in Utah could not vote because they were not considered “residents” of Utah but “residents” of their own tribal nations. In 1957, the Utah State Legislature passed a law that allowed all American Indians in Utah to vote regardless of whether they lived on a reservation or not. 3) In the late 1800s, Congress passed anti-polygamy laws. The Edmunds-Tucker Act took away the voting rights of polygamous men and all Utah women.
- What truth do you think Ida wanted told? When have you spoken truth?
- What was Ida’s strongest weapon against discrimination?
- What admirable characteristics did Ida portray? How can you develop similar characteristics?
- What role did Ida play in fighting for women’s suffrage and equal rights for all people? What type of discrimination did she experience in that role?
- What impact did Ida’s words have on the nation?
- When you witness discrimination against others (or towards yourself), what can you do?
In January 1910, fourteen immigrant ‘chocolate girls’ at the McDonald Candy Company in Salt Lake City went on strike after the firm refused the workers’ request to increase their wages. The strikers organized the Chocolate Dippers’ Union of Utah No. 1, the first union of women workers in Utah. Unfortunately, the union was short-lived, and the strikers did not achieve their goal of higher wages. Instead, they lost their jobs. But the efforts of these women to improve their work situation in one of Utah’s major industries made them exceptional.
From Kathryn L. Mackay, “The Chocolate Dippers’ Strike of 1910,” Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 83, No. 1, 39-51.
- Do you think Clara and her coworkers were justified to strike? Why or why not?
- Do you think there are situations where workers are not justified to strike?
- What do you do when you feel like quitting? How do you carry on?
- Clara and her coworkers’ strike resulted in changes in workplace conditions. However, the Chocolate Dippers in Utah were not as fortunate. Do you think it’s worth striking even if strikes do not result in desired changes?
Nettie Grimes Gregory was a native Tennessean who moved to Salt Lake City in 1913 with her husband, William, a railroad employee. They quickly adapted to life in Utah and Nettie sought to make herself useful to the community. She was especially concerned about the lack of wholesome recreation for young people living on the city’s west side. She and her husband began some activities at the Calvary Baptist Church but found that the number of young people wanting to participate exceeded the capacity of the church’s facilities. The answer was obvious to the Gregorys. Their neighborhood needed its own building with adequate space for a variety of community activities, including weddings, socials, and youth programs. William Gregory donated a small parcel of land, and…Nettie “recruited black women belonging to the Salt Lake Community Club and the Nimble Thimble Club to act as leaders in the fund-raising drive.” They held dinners, bake sales, and bazaars.
In 1959 construction of the first civic building in Salt Lake City built by African Americans began. The project required 5 years to complete, but the idea had been in Nettie’s heart for almost 20 years. Although Nettie had died of a stroke on July 6, 1964, those preparing to use the building recognized her by naming the new structure at 742 West South Temple the Nettie Gregory Center. The needs of African American youth had spurred the drive to build it, but the Gregorys always envisioned it as a place where people of all races and creeds would be welcome. Nettie was a person who believed that even young people could make an impact and difference.
Adapted from Utah History to Go: https://historytogo.utah.gov/people/utahns_of_achievement/nettiegrimesgregory.html
- This book includes a comprehensive discussion guide with supplemental materials and questions.
Mignon Barker Richmond was the first African American woman to graduate from a Utah college (Utah State University), in 1921. Like Fannie Lou Hamer, Mignon worked to improve the lives of African Americans in her community. She enjoyed a lifelong association with the YWCA and volunteered with the Salt Lake Chapter of the NAACP. She helped found the Nettie Gregory Center, the first civic building in Salt Lake City built by African Americans, in 1964.
- Of all the things Fannie did to improve the rights and conditions for African Americans, which one do you think made the biggest difference? Why?
- Why do you think the people who beat her were never punished?
- What gave Fannie courage to do really difficult things in her life? How can you have that same kind of courage?
From the book’s author’s note: “The sad coda to this story is that in 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, eliminating federal oversight of states’ election processes. Since that decision, many states have created ‘voter ID laws,’ which require all citizens to present a state-issued photo ID when voting.” Utah has a voter ID requirement.
- Why is Lillian’s experience different from others?
- What are some of the things that kept Lillian and her ancestors from voting?
- What are the voting requirements where you live? Do you feel that these requirements are fair?
Many Utah suffragists worked closely with national suffragist leaders. They held meetings and suffrage celebrations, generated petitions, paid dues to national suffrage organizations, and created items like the Utah Woman Suffrage Song Book to raise money and awareness for their cause.
- This book includes 20+ activities that readers can engage in while they read or that can serve as extensions of the story.
Utah suffragists Lavern Robertson and Minnie Quay were so committed to fighting for the national suffrage amendment that they joined one of the most famous protests by the National Woman’s Party and participated in picketing the White House in 1917, ultimately becoming victims of the infamous “Night of Terror.” For two and a half years, almost 2000 women from around the country took turns picketing outside the White House six days a week until the suffrage amendment finally passed both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on June 4, 1919.
- Alice was incredibly persistent, particularly when her task seemed impossible. Have you ever continued persisting in an endeavor even when it seemed impossible?
- Do you agree or disagree with the tactics Alice used to change President Wilson’s opinion on women’s suffrage?
- What tactics did Alice use that you still see people using today to change people’s opinions on issues?
- Like Alice, do you notice things in the world that need changing? How might you go about helping make these changes?
A man riding across the country on a bicycle passed through Utah in 1884. Utah’s Ute Indians first saw a bicycle in 1892 when a man from New York got lost on reservation lands. The Utes called the bike an “iron pony.” They thought it was part of a scheme to compete with and cheat them out of their beloved horses.
- The bicycle brought about a change in women’s fashions, inspired new songs, and gave women independence and a sense of freedom that propelled the women’s suffrage movement forward. Why do you think this was so?
- What modern-day inventions do you see being used to provide more resources and accessibility to marginalized groups?
Two years before Susan B. Anthony illegally cast her vote, Utah and Wyoming women received voting rights and were able to legally cast their ballots. In 1871, Anthony passed through Utah, where she spoke in the Salt Lake Tabernacle and congratulated Utah on extending voting rights to women. She became friends with Utah suffragists, championing their voting rights. In turn, Utahns adored Anthony and supported her efforts to win national women’s suffrage.
- What was Anthony’s heart on fire about? Does she get her wish?
- How would you have felt if you had been Anthony and had been arrested for voting? Would you have voted anyway, even knowing you’d go to jail?
- How did other people feel about Anthony speaking out for women’s suffrage?
- Do you think it’s ever justified for people to break laws in order to raise awareness of their cause?
Sara Bard Field and Frances Joliffe transported a suffrage petition and resolutions cross-country by automobile–collecting additional signatures along the way to present to Congress and the President. The automobile was driven by Swedish women Ingeborg Kinstedt and Maria Kindberg. Mabel Vernon traveled ahead of envoys by train and helped organize autocades, parades, meetings, and petition drives at various stops. In addition to stopping in Salt Lake City twice, the envoy visited San Francisco, Denver, Kansas City, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.
- How did new inventions (bicycle, car, train, typewriter, telegraph, etc.) impact the women’s suffrage movement?
- Why didn’t Neil and Alice travel through Utah? If they had stopped in Utah and you had lived there then, what would you have said to them?
- What creative ways have you seen others use to raise awareness for causes they care about?
- Other national suffrage events passed through Utah. For example, an automobile envoy passed through Salt Lake City, and suffragists paraded up Main Street in Salt Lake City, and later, up State Street to the Utah State Capitol. How do these demonstrations compare to demonstrations and protests that happen today?
For nearly forty years, Emmeline B. Wells and other Utah suffragists published a newspaper advocating for women’s rights, called the Woman’s Exponent. Emily S. Richards founded the Utah Woman Suffrage Association and organized local chapters throughout the Utah Territory. Utah suffragists held meetings, distributed pamphlets, signed petitions and wrote petitions demanding women’s voting rights in Utah and the nation.
In 1895, Utah, Colorado, and national suffragists met in Salt Lake City at the Rocky Mountain Suffrage Convention after Utah delegates and male voters elected to include women’s suffrage in the proposed state constitution that year. Colorado had granted women’s suffrage on November 7, 1893.
- Choose one of the stories told in the book and create an argument as to why it should be more well-known by the general public. Why are you inspired by this story? How can it relate to your day-to-day life?
- What did you find most surprising about this suffrage history? And why?
- This book leaves out the role that Utah played in the suffrage movement. What information and stories from the Utah history would you want included?
Emmeline B. Wells was a Utah woman who worked for decades to promote women’s rights. She first met Susan B. Anthony when Anthony visited Utah in 1871 to celebrate Utah women gaining suffrage, and Wells slowly built a friendship with the leader of the national women’s movement as she attended several national suffrage conventions. Anthony visited Utah again in 1895 to celebrate the inclusion of women’s suffrage in the proposed state constitution, and she even bequeathed a gold ring to Wells when she died in 1906. Anthony and Wells were unlikely friends given that Anthony did not personally support polygamy and Wells was a polygamist wife. However, Anthony believed that women should be granted voting rights regardless of their marital statuses and included polygamous Mormon women in the National Woman Suffrage Association when others did not want to include them.
- How do you think Susan and Frederick were able to stay friends even when they fought? Can you be friends with someone you might disagree with?
- Why is it important for friends support each other through hard things?
- Think of a time when you and a friend supported one another in a project of some kind. Did your friend help lighten your load? How does supporting one another help us achieve bigger goals?
- What can you do to support your friends and help them achieve their goals?
In 1869, at age 27, Phoebe Couzins began her studies at Washington University Law School in St. Louis, Missouri, and earned a Bachelor of Laws Degree in 1871, becoming the first female graduate of Washington University School of Law and one of the first women in the United States to graduate from law school. After passing the bar exam, she was licensed to practice in the federal courts in Missouri, Arkansas, Utah, and Kansas. After her father died in 1887, the U.S. government appointed her as the first female in the U.S. Marshal Service, and she finished her father’s term of service.
“The Utah Bar admitted [Georgianna “Georgia” Snow] Carleton in 1872, at the age of thirty. Before her admission, Carleton studied the law for three years with her father, Zerubbabel Snow, who was then the Attorney General of the Utah Territory and later a territorial Utah Supreme Court Judge. A committee appointed by Chief Justice McKean of the territorial Utah Supreme Court examined and approved Carleton’s application for admission and her legal qualifications. Carleton served as territorial librarian, later moving to Wyoming and entered politics. She served as an alternative delegate to the 1892 presidential convention. Carleton later moved to San Diego, where she was a member of the Board of Education. She died in 1915.” From Women Trailblazers in the Law: Utah’s First 100 Women Lawyers.
- What were Belva’s reasons for running for president in spite of a lack of support from many?
- What may have inspired Belva to continue her campaign even when she had little support? What inspires you to keep going through hard things?
- Think of a time that you may have lost something like a race or when you became discouraged in completing a task. How did that experience help you grow? Identify what you learned along the way in preparing for that race or that show.
- What can you learn from experiences when you might not win?
Like Belva Lockwood, Utah women understood that suffrage was just the first step in political engagement. Even before statehood and suffrage were secured, three Utah women attempted to run for elected office in 1895 but were ultimately barred from running because of their gender. After Utah’s constitutional convention adopted women’s right to vote and hold office, controversy arose regarding whether women would be eligible to vote in the ratifying election. Although the federal Enabling Act specifically limited voting on the constitution to male citizens, some Utah delegates argued that women should at least be able to vote for state officials under the rights guaranteed in the new constitution. Accordingly, the Republican party nominated Emmeline B. Wells to run for the Utah House of Representatives, Lillie Pardee for the State Senate, and Emma McVicker for state superintendent of schools. Shortly thereafter, the territorial supreme court ruled that women did not have the right to vote in the ratifying election. Although the ruling did not explicitly address women’s right to run for office, many extended the court’s reasoning to bar the three Republican women candidates. Emma McVicker and Lillie Pardee soon dropped out of the race, but Emmeline Wells fought to maintain her candidacy as long as possible and finally capitulated only weeks before the election. Although women could not vote in the election that ratified the new state constitution and restored their voting rights, several women successfully ran for office in the election the following year.
- How did Belva’s experience teaching girls public speaking prepare her for her future? How can you prepare today for the goals and dreams you want to accomplish?
- Which quote of Belva’s do you like the most? Why?
- Belva fought for the rights of all people and not just for women. How can you fight for the rights of others?
- Even though Belva lost, do you think her campaign was still successful? Why? How can we turn what might seem like a “failure” into success?
Charlotte Godbe Kirby was one of the first people to speak about women’s suffrage and rights in the Utah Territory. She was a woman of strong opinions who shared them openly. Even though many Mormon suffragists excluded Charlotte after her polygamous husband was excommunicated from the LDS Church (she would later divorced him), she was well known within the national suffrage movement, associated with many national leaders, and considered herself the leading spokesperson of Utah women’s concerns. She was selected by the National Woman Suffrage Association to speak to a U.S. Congress committee about women’s suffrage and spoke to thousands of suffragists in Boston’s Fremont Temple.
- Who inspires you to make changes in your life? Why are they inspirational to you?
- Identify an idea that you really care about. How can you encourage others to feel passionately about that idea, too?
- How can you stand up to injustice in your own life?
- Elizabeth and the other suffragists had to change the rules to be successful in gaining women the right to vote. What’s the difference between breaking rules and changing them? Why was changing the rules entirely the only way to success for the suffragists?
In 1871, a year after Utah women gained suffrage, national suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony spoke in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. They congratulated Utah women on their voting rights and spoke about their hopes that all women in the nation would soon enjoy them as well. This visit began a long friendship between Susan B. Anthony and Emmeline B. Wells. However, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was barred from speaking from Mormon pulpits because she advocated ideas such as birth control that were at odds with Mormon church teachings of the time.
- Why do you think a woman’s right to vote was such a radical idea at this time?
- How might your life be different if Elizabeth had not pushed for women’s suffrage like she did?
- Think of a time when someone told you that you were not able to complete some hard task. Did you complete it anyway? How did it feel when they said that to you? How did it feel to accomplish the task anyway if you did?
- What kind of attitude do you need to be able to accomplish tasks that seem impossible?
Although the 19th Amendment granted women’s suffrage nationally, the fight for universal suffrage in the United States was not over. Not all women residing in Utah were granted the vote in 1870 or with statehood in 1896 or with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
Though the 14th Amendment had earlier defined “citizens” as any person born in the United States, the amendment was interpreted to restrict the citizenship rights (including the right to vote) of many. For example, since Native Americans were not considered U.S. citizens during this time period, they were excluded from women’s voting rights in Utah in 1870 and 1896, and nationally in 1920. Legal barriers enacted in numerous states effectively made it impossible for African Americans to vote. Many Asian immigrants in the United States were legally prohibited from applying for citizenship (and voting rights) simply because of their countries of origin. Imagine a conversation between the people in Utah fighting for their voting rights after 1920 and the women who were able to vote at this point.
- How might the struggle for equal rights be different if groups like those led by Harriet and Susan did not work together to achieve their goals?
- Despite the fact that they were both women, Harriet and Susan experienced discrimination in different ways. How and why?
- Imagine a tea between two Utah women. Who would be at this tea? What would they discuss?
- If Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman invited you to tea and asked you for an update on efforts towards equality to all, what would you tell them? What examples would you give them from your life and society to demonstrate progress and/or lack of progress?
- What do you think life would be like if women still did not have the right to vote?
- Who are the voices around you that are not heard? Who goes unrepresented? How can you ensure that their stories are heard?
- What lessons can be learned about resilience and persistence from the women’s suffrage movement?
- After learning about this history, what do you feel inspired to accomplish?
- What leader from the women’s suffrage movement most inspires you? Why?
Since the women’s rights movement spanned several decades, many older suffragists mentored younger women who became suffragists. For example, Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon was mentored by Emmeline B. Wells when Mattie worked as a typesetter for the Woman’s Exponent, the women’s rights newspaper that Emmeline edited. Additionally, since women in Utah were first given voting rights in 1870, several generations of Mormon women voted by the time the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting women’s suffrage at a national level, in 1920.
- Choose one of the young women from the book. What do you find inspiring about her story?
- Why do you think the author chose these young women specifically? Is there a pattern or theme that unites them? If so, what is that pattern, and how can you see it in your own life?
- Who are some influential young women in society today? What makes them influential to you? How can you emulate those qualities in your own life?
- Choose one girl from the book and create an argument as to why she is the most influential of them all. Support your idea with facts and real-life application.
- What connections do you make between your life and the lives of the women in the book?
- Which women today do you think are making “herstory”? Why?
- What can you do to become a “historical” woman or to support the “historical” women in your life?
- What Utah milestones would you add to this book’s timeline? Why?
In October 1873, Young announced he was sending Utah women to eastern universities to train as physicians. Some of the most remarkable women in the territory answered the call, and the next fall Romania Pratt, widow of LDS Apostle Parley P. Pratt, enrolled in the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Ellis Shipp joined her in 1875, working her way through school as a seamstress until graduation in 1883.
Pratt later ran a school of obstetrics for 20 years as a resident physician at the Deseret Hospital, which the LDS Relief Society operated from 1882 until 1894. Shipp trained nurses and midwives throughout the territory and gave birth to 10 children of her own, four of whom died in infancy.
Martha Hughes Cannon studied medicine at the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania. Her degree from the National School of Elocution and Oratory helped her become the first woman state senator in the U.S. in 1896.”
From Will Bagley, “Despite Today’s Legislators, Utah on the Forefront of Women in Medicine,” The Salt Lake Tribune, September 1, 2002.
- Have you ever been consumed by an idea--like Elizabeth was consumed with the idea of becoming a doctor?
- Have you ever been told that you couldn’t or shouldn’t do or be something that you knew you could do or be? What did you do?
- How do you think Elizabeth felt when she arrived at medical school to learn that her fellow students didn’t want her there? What did Elizabeth do instead of giving up and returning home? What can you learn from her example?
- What profession do you want to have? Do you feel supported in this choice? Why or why not?
- What similarities do these 10 women have? What differences stand out to you?
- Which woman’s story do you find the most inspiring? Why?
- How have your mother and your grandmothers inspired you?
- The end of the book asks: What would you change if you could?
- What Utah women from history would you add to this book if you had the option? Why?
The Brits were not the only ones to have a famous Emmeline. Utah had its own Emmeline in Emmeline B. Wells. She was Utah’s leading suffragist, and she lobbied for over 30 years for Utah interests in Washington, D.C., meeting with legislators and four U.S. Presidents. Emmeline was a frequent speaker at national and international suffrage conventions and traveled the Utah Territory as president of its suffrage association. For nearly 40 years, she edited the Woman’s Exponent, a newspaper that she used to voice her support for suffrage and other opportunities for women. She also maintained lifelong friendships with national suffrage leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
- What inspired Emmeline Pankhurst to fight for women’s voting rights? Who or what inspires you?
- How did Emmeline Pankhurst show others that women were capable of doing what men can do?
- What similarities do you see between Emmeline Pankhurst and Emmeline Wells?
- How did both Emmelines show perseverance and dedication to their belief?