As the great-great-granddaughters of early Utah lawmaker Elizabeth Ann Pugsley Hayward, Emily Wessman and Toni Wyeth always make it to the polls.
In 1915, Hayward and other women rode in a Salt Lake City parade of automobiles — decorated with flags in the suffrage movement’s colors of purple, white and gold — to Hotel Utah, to meet U.S. Sen. Reed Smoot and encourage him to support national suffrage.
Hayward was elected that year to the state House of Representatives and later to the Senate. In 1919, when Utah ratified the 19th Amendment, the vote was based on a resolution proposed by Hayward. (Utah women had regained voting rights with statehood in 1896, after previously voting from 1870 to 1887 in Utah Territory.)
The next year will see celebrations and events throughout the country leading up to the centennial of the date now known as Equality Day. On Aug. 26, 1920, the U.S. Secretary of State certified the amendment that had passed eight days earlier.
[Kate Kelly: Utah, let’s ratify the ERA]
Wyeth often thinks about all the women today who have benefited from the legions of women who fought for suffrage, and especially Hayward.
“You always hear about Susan B. Anthony, and that’s awesome. Don’t get me wrong,” said Wyeth, 60, who lives in Texas. “But this is my great-great-grandmother, and that’s exciting.”
“It’s a great legacy,” added Wessman, 46, of Holladay. “I’m so honored to be a descendant of hers.”
Hayward’s descendants have pieced together her life from family stories, newspaper archives, photographs, letters and memorabilia. Wessman is working on digitizing old files and updating genealogy websites. Her cousin, Amy Tanner Thiriot, an independent historian, published some of what they’ve found on her blog, The Ancestor Files. She also created a Wikipedia page for Hayward.
“It’s a point of pride for the family that we have this connection to history,” said Thiriot, 47, who lives in Pennsylvania. “And it has meaning to be able to introduce our children … to be able to tell their grandchildren, ‘Here’s your ancestor who was involved in suffrage, who was involved in women’s rights, who was a state senator before most women in the country could vote.’”
Motherhood to state Senate
Hayward was born Dec. 23, 1854, in Salt Lake City. Her parents converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and came to Utah from England.
On her 21st birthday, Hayward married her husband, Henry J. Hayward. They had nine children together, three of whom lived to adulthood. Wyeth said she admires the strength Hayward must have had to endure so much loss.
Hayward was “always interested in the welfare of children,” according to Thiriot’s blog. She joined a range of organizations, including a parent-teacher association, the city playground commission, public library board, Daughters of Utah Pioneers and Women’s Democratic Club, among others. In 1908, Hayward was a Utah delegate to the National Democratic Convention in Colorado.
In the House of Representatives, she introduced bills addressing women’s working hours and child labor. On Feb. 27, 1919, she became the first woman to preside over the Utah Senate.
Hayward’s descendants have learned more about her work from items she left behind. Wyeth has a bunch of ribbons Hayward accumulated from the different causes she supported over the years. Once in a while, Wyeth said her son digs through the ribbons and researches more about them.
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When she was growing up, Thiriot said, her grandparents showed her a collection of decorative spoons that Hayward collected during her travels advocating for various issues.
Wyeth learned about Hayward from her mother and grandmother while growing up. “They just always instilled in me a love for Elizabeth and everything that she stood for,” she said. “She was proud to be a woman and to have a voice and be able to use it.”
Peggy Barber, 76, who lives in California, learned about her ancestor from her father, Hayward’s grandson. “Because of her, Dad knew women did not have to take a backseat to men and could be influential in their own right,” she said.
The right to vote
In June 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, but at least 36 states needed to ratify it before it could become law. Utah held a special session that year and unanimously voted to ratify on Sept. 30.
In the days surrounding the vote, Salt Lake City newspapers gave Hayward credit for proposing the resolution. Reading through the articles, her descendants noticed that the reporters didn’t refer to Hayward by her husband’s name, as Mrs. Henry J. Hayward, as was common practice. Wyeth and Wessman think that’s notable.
“She was her own voice,” Wyeth said.
Hayward set a high bar with her accomplishments, but Wessman likes to remember something that Norinne Hayward Husbands, Hayward’s granddaughter, told her: Hayward was terrible at cooking and cleaning.
“I look up to her very highly, but yet I know she was human. And that’s nice,” Wyeth said.
Hayward remained active in her later years, as local organizations recognized her for her work and newspapers noted her birthday celebrations.
After Hayward died on Jan. 26, 1942, The Salt Lake Tribune published an article calling Hayward an “estimable lady and influential citizen.”
“Intensely feminine in all her varied responsibilities, unassuming but independent, reserved but resolute, Mrs. Hayward was one of the most capable and courageous women of her community and time,” according to the article.
Becky Jacobs is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of women in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today.