Sisters for SuffrageFirst to Vote

    First to Vote

    On February 14, 1870, several women voted in the Salt Lake City municipal election, becoming the first women to legally cast a vote in a United States election under an equal suffrage law.

    Seraph Young Votes, by David Koch, 2007. Image courtesy of the Capitol Preservation Board, Utah State Capitol Collection.

    As if in response to the Latter-day Saint women’s gallant defense of their rights as citizens, the Utah territorial legislature passed an act giving the vote to women on February 10, 1870.

    Two days later the act was signed by Acting Governor S. A. Mann, making Utah the second territory to enfranchise women. On February 14, 1870, several women voted in the Salt Lake City municipal election, becoming the first women to legally cast a vote in a United States election under an equal suffrage law. In August nearly 2,000 Utah women exercised their right to vote in the Utah territorial election.

    Seraph Cedenia Young Ford (1846–1938), Brigham Young’s grandniece, was the first woman known to cast a ballot in the February 14, 1870, Salt Lake City municipal election, making her the first woman with equal suffrage rights to legally vote in the United States.

    Ballot Box, circa 1860s. Utah women would have cast votes using a ballot box like this one—used in territorial elections for the town of Lewiston, Utah—in the decades prior to woman suffrage.

    Woman Suffrage Act, 1870. This document captures an important moment in the suffrage movement. In red ink are written the words, “First sketch of a bill on Ladies Suffrage in Utah” (spelling standardized). The core message is clear: “All women over the age of eighteen years . . . shall be entitled to vote.”

    Deseret Evening News, June 21, 1871. National suffrage leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony visited Salt Lake City in 1871 to see how Utah’s suffrage experiment was progressing.

    Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) was one of the most well-known and staunch advocates of Utah suffrage. Although opposed to polygamy, Susan B. Anthony developed a good relationship with many Latter-day Saint women and worked closely with them in the cause of suffrage. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

    When the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association merged in 1890, some wanted to exclude Latter-day Saint women from their ranks because of polygamy. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902), president of the newly formed National American Woman Suffrage Association, came to their defense, saying, “There is such a thing as being too anxious lest some one ‘hurt the cause’ by what she may say or do.”8 (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)