A week of celebratory events are planned to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Utah women first getting the right to vote.
In 1870, the Utah Territorial Legislature passed a bill enfranchising “any women 21 or older, a resident of the territory for six months, who was born or naturalized in the United States or who was the wife, widow or daughter of a citizen.” The acting governor signed it on Feb. 12, and two days later, Seraph Young, grandniece of Brigham Young, became the first Utah woman to cast a ballot. She voted in a Salt Lake City municipal election.
Better Days 2020, a Utah nonprofit dedicated to promoting this history in the Beehive State, and others have planned events in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah to celebrate these upcoming anniversaries. (Although a federal law later repealed their suffrage, Utah women regained it with statehood.)
Wednesday, Feb. 12
9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.: Free activities will be available for children at the Capitol, including a scavenger hunt with prizes, storytellers featuring women from Utah history, informational videos and displays and Utah HERitage “swag.”
12:30 p.m.: A sing-along of “Champions for Change” song will be held in the Capitol Rotunda.
1 p.m.-2p.m.: Gov. Gary Herbert and first lady Jeanette Herbert will commemorate the anniversary in the Gold Room. The event will feature Utah poet laureate Paisley Rekdal. A ticket is not required to enter the Gold Room, but space is limited and will be standing room only. Doors open at 12:50 p.m.
An exhibit, “Utah Women Working for the Vote and Beyond,” is on display on the fourth floor of the Capitol, featuring Brooke Smart’s watercolor illustrations of 50 Utah women advocates from history. The illustrations are part of a traveling exhibit through Utah. Upcoming locations can be found at bit.ly/2Sgn7aI.
Friday, Feb. 14
11:45 a.m.-2 p.m.: Join Better Days 2020, Preservation Utah, Voterise, the Utah Cultural Alliance, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and YWCA Utah for a remembrance walk in Salt Lake City. Meet at City Creek Park (175 N. State Street) to check in from 11:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. The walk will start at 12:15 p.m. and will head north on State Street for a short speech and exhibit viewing at Council Hall, before ending at Memorial House in Memory Grove Park. Participants are encouraged to wear purple, white or yellow, which are suffrage colors. Organizers will provide pins and ribbons for people to wear with the name of a woman they would like to honor. After the walk, food, music, activities and a collaborative art project will be available at 1 p.m. at Memorial House (375 N. Canyon Road). In case of inclement weather, the event will start at noon at Memorial House.
4 p.m.-7 p.m.: The League of Women Voters of Salt Lake and Utah are holding a rally in front of the Capitol. Speakers include Deeda Seed, from the Center for Biological Diversity, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, former Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck and former Congresswoman Karen Shepherd.
7 p.m.: Better Days 2020 and Utah Opera are hosting Women of Notes, two short operas by and about women, at the Ladies’ Literary Clubhouse (850 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City). A social hour with light refreshments will be held at 7 p.m., followed by the concert at 8 p.m. Tickets, which are $25, are available at the door and at bit.ly/2Oub5cR.
Saturday, Feb. 15
6 p.m.-8 p.m.: A book signing will be held at Deseret Book (468 N. 990 W., American Fork) with Marianne Monson, author of “Her Quiet Revolution: A Novel of Martha Hughes Cannon,” and Katherine Kitterman and Rebekah Clark, authors of “Thinking Women: A Timeline of Suffrage in Utah.”
Council Hall: A quilted memorial to leading suffragists can be viewed at Council Hall (300 N. State Street, Salt Lake City), the location where Seraph Young cast her ballot Feb. 14, 1870. Visitors can also cast their own symbolic vote.
LDS Church History Museum: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints highlights Utah women’s role in the suffrage movement in an exhibit, “Sisters for Suffrage: How Utah Women Won the Vote," at the museum (45 N. W Temple, Salt Lake City), on display until January 2021.
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 by clicking here.