Before national suffrage was achieved in 1920, women in Utah had already won the right to vote—twice! Utah women voted 50 years before many other women in the country, enjoying that right until it was taken away by the national government 17 years later. They won the right to vote for a second time with Utah’s statehood in 1896.
Latter-day Saint communities in present-day Utah were settled by pioneers—people who blazed trails across the United States in search of religious freedom. Their pioneering spirit carried over into politics. Having organized the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo in March 1842, Latter-day Saint women were accustomed to civic participation and action. Utah was the second territory in the United States to grant suffrage to its female populace, and on February 14, 1870, Utah women became the first to vote in a United States election under an equal suffrage law.
When the federal government rescinded Utah’s female suffrage in 1887, the Relief Society provided a ready-made framework for distributing information and initiating action. Latter-day Saint women worked with national suffragists to see their right to vote restored. When Utah became the 45th state on January 4, 1896, suffrage was included in the state constitution. Twenty-four years before women throughout the country would gain voting rights, Utah’s women had won the right to vote twice!
The exhibition Sisters for Suffrage: How Utah Women Won the Vote will be on display at the Church History Museum from November 21, 2019, to January 2021. A selection of artifacts and text from the exhibit can also be viewed in this online exhibit. We hope that you will be inspired by the stories of these forward-thinking Latter-day Saint women and the men who supported their cause. Whether by voting or volunteering, we can carry on their legacy of taking action for good in our homes, communities, and countries.