Government and the National Suffrage Movement
Latter-day Saint Woman’s Suffrage Research Guide
This section identifies items and collections at both the state and federal government levels pertaining to suffrage in Utah. It also lists Church History Library holdings related to the national suffrage movement, which was reenergized in the late 1860s. The movement was sparked largely in response to the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted the vote to all citizens regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” but did not mention gender.1
Utah women played an important role in the ongoing suffrage movement, and Utah politics were central to many larger debates.
The International Council of Women was formed in 1888 in Washington, D.C., with the mission of bringing together women’s organizations from around the world to advocate for equal rights and improved living standards.2 Latter-day Saint leader Susa Young Gates served as a delegate from Utah and attended meetings around the world.3
The National Council of Women, the United States branch of the International Council of Women, was also formed in 1888. Susa Young Gates and Emmeline B. Wells served on the council, and many other Latter-day Saints attended conventions as delegates of the Relief Society and the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association (YLMIA).4
The National Woman Suffrage Association was organized in 1869 as a split-off from the national suffrage movement. The National Woman Suffrage Association opposed the Fifteenth Amendment because it did not include women’s right to vote.5
The Edmunds-Tucker Act was passed by congress in 1887 to end the practice of plural marriage.6 In addition to disincorporating the Church and the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company, the act also disenfranchised Utah women,7 who had been voting since 1870.
Bills and Legislation
This collection contains the files of the Utah Territorial Legislative Assembly. Records in the collection include minutes, communications, reports, acts, resolutions, and memorials. The collection also includes the original copy of the Women Suffrage Act of 1870, which authorized that “all women over the age of eighteen years who are citizens of the United States, and have resided six months in the Territory of Utah, shall be entitled to vote.”
This is the record of a bill introduced to the US Congress in 1869 that granted the territory of Utah voting rights “without any distinction or discrimination whatever founded on sex.” The bill was based on the idea that granting women suffrage would end the practice of plural marriage. The bill passed.
This is the record of a bill introduced to the US Congress in 1882 to disapprove and repeal an act of the Utah territorial governor and legislature giving women the right to vote. The bill died in committee.
This pamphlet contains three speeches in support of woman’s suffrage given by Orson F. Whitney at the Constitutional Congress of Utah. See also Men and Women: Past, Present, and Future.
This speech was given by Franklin S. Richards at the Utah Constitutional Convention. (This item is available to view on microfiche at the Church History Library.)
This statement by Martha Hughes Cannon (and other representatives from throughout the West) regarding suffrage in Utah was read before the US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary in 1898.
This pamphlet contains the speech given by George Sutherland, a representative from Utah, to Congress on February 18, 1914, in support of suffrage, drawing on the experience of those states that had already given women the franchise.
This three-volume biography of Susan B. Anthony, written by Ida Husted Harper, contains her public addresses, letters, and other primary source information. Content relevant to Latter-day Saints and suffrage in Utah is treated in volume 1, pages 388–90, and volume 3, pages 1150–53. The Church History Library has a copy of all three volumes. The full text is available online through the Internet Archive.
This pamphlet, created circa 1887, announced a special international council to celebrate forty years of the woman’s suffrage movement. It includes a call for unity and an expression of hope that the council would find effective methods to achieve their goals.
This printed broadside is an appeal for assistance in conjunction with the International Council of Women held in Washington, D.C., from March 25 to April 1, 1888. The announcement identifies the need to cover the expense of the large council and asks women to give their “time and strength” as well as monetary contributions.
This document was written by Belva Lockwood (a national suffragist leader) in 1888 and discusses her belief that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in territorial Utah were unfairly treated by the federal government, emphasizing the disenfranchisement of women who lost the right to vote under the Edmunds-Tucker Act.
This 1914 printed pamphlet, written by Susa Young Gates in response to a letter of inquiry from women in England, states the benefits of suffrage and the political participation of women in Utah.
This pamphlet, also written by Susa Young Gates, relates the story of how Emmeline B. Wells leveraged Utah women’s voting power in a congressional committee to raise the age of consent from 14 to 18 in Utah.
This pamphlet, printed from a speech given by Angie F. Newman at the 49th Congress in June of 1886, states her opposition to Latter-day Saint women being allowed to vote. With the support of George F. Edmund, she also wrote similar documents for the 50th and 51st Congresses. In her speech, Newman refers to a document created by “Mormon women” to express their grievances, which is also available digitally in the library’s collections.
This printed document, written April 6, 1886, was addressed to the president of the United States and Congress in memorial of a mass meeting of Utah women where they expressed their grievances with the existing Edmunds-Tucker Act. In the document, they described the many injustices, harassments, and other indignities they had suffered and appealed to the government to investigate the violations of their rights.
This archivist-compiled collection contains postcards pertaining to the Church, its culture, and its members. There are two postcards in the collection, endorsed and approved by the National American Woman Suffrage Association, that identify the first states to grant women the vote: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho.
 US Const., amend. XV, § 1, constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution.
 “History,” International Council of Women, accessed Jun 24, 2021, icw-cif.com.
 Susa Young Gates papers, circa 1870–1933, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.
 See Louise Barnum Robbins, ed., History and Minutes of the National Council of Women of the United States (Boston: E. B. Stillings & Co., 1898), iiif.lib.harvard.edu/manifests/view/drs:2574304$19i.
 See Ida Husted Harper, ed., The History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 5, 1900–1920 (New York: J. J. Little & Ives, 1922), books.google.com.
 “The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage,” Gospel Topics Essays, topics.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
 “Edmunds-Tucker Act,” history.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.