The United States has a major milestone to celebrate in 2020: the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The 19th Amendment prohibits barring citizens of the United States from voting on the basis of sex, granting women the right to vote.
However, Utah women exercised their political rights long before the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The Utah Territorial Assembly granted women the right to vote in 1870. Salt Lake City schoolteacher Seraph Young was the first woman to legally cast a ballot in the United States.
While women celebrated their new political freedoms, anti-polygamy lobbyists were disappointed that women’s suffrage did not end the practice of multiple marriages in Mormon households, as many hoped it would. To combat this, they persuaded U.S. Congress to pass legislation ending women’s suffrage in Utah (still a U.S. territory) after 17 years, pressuring the LDS Church to disavow polygamy.
In 1890, LDS leaders officially ended the practice of polygamy. Congress then invited Utah Territory to reapply for statehood, having previously denied several requests because the federal government considered polygamy a barbaric and oppressive institution. Utah women took advantage of this opportunity and successfully lobbied politicians to include women’s suffrage in the state constitution.
Not everyone approved of women voting, however. When Sam Raddon printed the proposed constitution in the Park Record, he wrote: “There are some features we do not like, especially women’s suffrage, but there is a thorn in every rose hence the good and bad will have to be taken together.” Raddon’s misogyny aside, Utah’s all-male electorate approved the constitution, including the women’s suffrage clause, by a popular vote of 31,305 to 7,607.
With their own political freedoms secure, Utah women organized to support the national campaign for a women’s suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Governor William Spry praised them for “campaigning in a more effective manner” than East Coast suffragists, who he thought had a reputation for “unwomanly” conduct. The women’s suffrage movement finally achieved its goal in 1919 when Congress voted to adopt the 19th Amendment, which was then ratified a year later.
Importantly, not all women benefited from the 19th Amendment’s passage. Women of color were still largely barred from the ballot box, including Utah’s Indigenous women, who were not protected U.S. citizens until 1924. Even then, Utah state laws prohibited Native American women living on reservations from voting until 1957. Indigenous women’s suffrage was strengthened by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, although the fight for equal representation at the voting booth continues today.
Join the Park City Museum as we celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage with our new traveling exhibit, “A Woman Speaking to Women: The Political Art of Nina Allender,” from the National Women’s Party. The exhibit will be on view in the Museum’s Tozer Gallery through January 13!
 Barbara Jones Brown, Naomi Watkins, and Katherine Kitterman, “Gaining, Losing, and Winning Back the Vote: The Story of Utah Women’s Suffrage,” Utah Women’s History, https://www.utahwomenshistory.org/2018/02/receiving-losing-and-winning-back-the-vote-the-story-of-utah-womens-suffrage/.
 “Local News,” Park Record (Park City, Utah), May 11, 1895.
 “Votes for Women,” Park Record (Park City, Utah), June 22, 1912.
 Brown et. al.