Holly Richardson: A swing and many misses on mural of Utah women

(Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo) Current and former women Utah legislators pose for a photograph with the Martha Hughes Cannon statue outside the state capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012. The women gathered at the capitol for a screening of the KUED documentary on Martha Hughes Cannon who was the first women state senator in the United States. Front row, from left: Peggy Wallace, Beverly White, Karen Shepherd, Olene Walker, Becky Lockhart, Margaret Dayton, Chris Fox Finlinson, Carol Spackman Moss, Paula Julander, Alicia Suazo and Karen Morgan. Back row, from left: Nancy Lyon, Carlene Walker, Patrice Arent, Lou Shurtliff, Trisha Beck, Rhonda Menlove, Sheryl Allen, Merlynn Newbold, Becky Edwards, Marie Poulson, Jennifer Seelig, Jackie Biskupski, Christine Watkins, Karen Mayne, Rebecca Chavez Houck, Darlene Gubler and Pat Jones.

I was excited to see the huge, 5,000-square-foot Zions Bank mural of 270 influential Utah women. What a way to celebrate women’s contributions on the 100th anniversary of ratifying the 19th Amendment! What a way to elevate women’s voices and their accomplishments!

There are some great women on there, women who have worked hard in and for Utah. Women like university presidents Astrid Tuminez and Ruth Watkins, authors Virginia Pearce and Ann Cannon and Salt Lake City Mayors Jackie Biskupsi and Erin Mendenhall. Of course, Martha Hughes Cannon is on there, as well as Emmeline B. Wells. Current legislators are up there too, including Reps. Patrice Arent and Sandra Hollins. All of them great women.

What soon became painfully and sadly apparent, though, is how one-sided the representation is. Not a single Republican woman currently serving in the Utah Legislature was named. Not a single high-profile female leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made the list. Other obvious leaders were left off as well.

Professor, well-known researcher on the status of women in Utah and founding director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project, Susan Madsen is oddly not on the list.

Economist Natalie Gochnour, an associate dean in the David Eccles School of Business and director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, as well as advisor to multiple Utah governors and appointed to federal positions? Not on the list.

Enid Greene Mickelsen, the first Republican woman ever elected to Congress in the state of Utah? Not on the list.

Mia Love, the first black Republican woman ever elected to Congress in the nation? Not on the list.

Sharon Eubank, director of a nonprofit that has done billions of dollars worth of charitable giving since 1985 and one of three presiding members of the world’s largest organization for women? Not on the list.

Ann Milner, former university president and only the 9th Republican woman ever elected to the Utah Senate? Not on the list.

Carine Clark, president and CEO of Banyan and on the executive board of Silicon Slopes? Not on the list.

Wendy Watson Nelson, wife of Russell M. Nelson and who earned a Ph.D., taught on the university level for years and is a strong speaker and author in her own right? Not on the list.

Margaret Dayton, the longest serving Republican female legislator in Utah history? Not on the list.

Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, mayor of the third-largest city in the state and recent lieutenant governor candidate? Not on the list.

Deidre Henderson, current state senator and lieutenant governor candidate who has done much to advocate and elevate women’s voices? Not on the list.

Sheri Dew, author, publisher, executive vice president of Deseret Management Corporation and the CEO of Deseret Book Company? Not on the list.

Perhaps most glaring of all, Becky Lockhart, first elected to the Utah House of Representatives at age 29 and who went on to become Utah’s first (and so far only) female speaker of the House? Not. On. The. List.

Of course, the trouble with any kind of “list” is that someone is always left off. I get that. But at what point does inadvertent oversight become willful omission?

For a mural that was meant to showcase and elevate influential women in Utah, the voices that were overlooked, forgotten, ignored or deliberately muted unfortunately send the opposite message.

On the plus side, now that Republican legislators are “woke” to the marginalization and silencing of women, perhaps we can see some progress on legislation addressing the gender wage gap, and achieving gender parity on boards and commissions, within the executive branch and within our state’s legislative body. Because, let me tell ya, many women in Utah face this dismissal, ignoring and silencing every damn day.

Representation really does matter. Different eyeballs on the same issues really matter. Diversity matters. Even on murals.

Holly Richardson

Holly Richardson, a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune, is grateful to those who first brought this to her attention, especially state Sen. Dan McCay and Emily Coleman.