LOGAN – The local “Celebration of a Century, 1920-2020” event on Wednesday honored Utah women and men who were pioneers in the suffrage movement that ultimately resulted in the ratification of the 19th Amendment a century ago.
“Utah played an important role in the push for the women’s suffrage movement,” according to Gina H. Worthen, a member of the Cache County Council and a featured speaker at the event held on the steps of Cache County Historic Courthouse. “That movement began in the West (during the late 19th Century) and pushed east.”
Some of those early women’s rights advocates were from right here in Cache Valley, she added.
Although the women’s suffrage movement traces its roots to the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848, Worthen noted that it was a Utah woman who cast the first vote under an unrestricted equal suffrage law. She was Seraph Young and that vote was cast on Feb. 14, 1870, a full half-century before women would win the franchise nationwide.
Young and more than 17,000 other women were able to vote from 1870 to 1887 under an equal suffrage bill enacted by the Utah Territorial Legislature. Worthen said that legislation was submitted by Peter Maughan, the original settler of Cache Valley.
Maughan was likely influenced by his wife, Mary Ann Maughan, the first Relief Society President in Cache Valley, Worthen suggested. She was also an ardent and vocal support of women’s suffrage.
Other Cache Valley residents were also important figures in the women’s rights movement.
Worthen said those noteworthy women included Lula Green Richards of Smithfield, the founding editor of the Women’s Exponent, one of the first U.S. periodicals published by and for women; Jane Hyde Molen from Hyde Park, a local suffragist leader, party delegate and school board member; and Adeline Hatch Barber of Logan, a suffrage advocate and silk industry leader.
In her remarks, Worthen also emphasized that Utah holds a “unique place” in the history of women’s suffrage because women had to earn the right to vote here twice.
The Edmunds Tucker Act of 1887, a federal anti-plural marriage law, eventually revoked the franchise for women originally granted by the Utah Territorial Legislature in 1870. That slight would not be corrected until Utah earned statehood nearly a decade later.
“All eight delegates from Cache Valley to the Utah Constitutional Convention of 1895 argued and campaigned for equal suffrage to be included in the creation of the Utah Constitution,” Worthen explained. “They were Moses Thatcher, L.C. Thoreson, Henry Hughes, Charles Hart, James P. Low, William J. Kerr, William H. Maughan and Noble Warrum.”
The victory for women’s suffrage included in the Utah Constitution led to Martha Hughes Cannon being elected as the first female state senator in America in 1896. Hughes went on to make a historic address to the U.S. Congress in 1898, urging that all American women be granted the same voting rights as women in Utah.
“It seems inconsequential to utter a simple ‘thank you’ to our forebearers for their sacrifices and efforts in securing the right for women to vote and hold public office,” Worthen said in her closing remarks. “But I am grateful to them to have a voice and a vote in politics and for the privilege to represent my fellow citizens in elected office.”