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Lawmakers present bill honoring women’s suffrage on 150th anniversary

The leading women who pioneered the right to vote in Utah and the country. On the 150th anniversary of women's suffrage, Utah lawmakers will present a bill that aims to celebrate the history of women's suffrage and highlight the state's role in voting rights. (Utah State Historical Society)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Lawmakers will present a bill Wednesday that aims to celebrate the history of women’s suffrage in Utah, highlighting the state’s role in voting rights. The special occasion? Wednesday is the 150th anniversary that Utah law extended voting rights to women citizens.

Sen. Deidre Henderson and Rep. Melissa Ballard will present the resolution, H.J.R. 12 “Joint Resolution Celebrating Women’s Suffrage in Utah”, in the state legislature.  The resolution describes the history of women suffrage in Utah, while acknowledging the women who contributed to achieving women’s right to vote.

The move comes on a significant anniversary: Feb. 12, 1870, was the day Utah extended the right for women to vote, making it the second state in the U.S. to pass such a law. Two days later, on Feb. 14, 1870, Seraph Young of Utah was the first woman in the country to cast a vote in an election under equal suffrage laws in Salt Lake City.

However, 17 years after Utah women were granted the right to vote, the federal government revoked their suffrage. Leading women in Utah worked together to institute the right to vote in the state’s constitution.

In 2019, Utah designated Feb. 14 as Women’s Voter Registration Day to commemorate Young’s actions. The state now recognizes the day as a “celebration of democracy, rights, and opportunities for all women in Utah,” according to the resolution.

The women’s suffrage bill calls for an acknowledgment of Utah suffragists who advanced the rights of women. The proposed resolution also calls for Utah women to continue participating in civic life, involved in voting and democratic things.

The year 2020 will see other significant anniversaries in the equal suffrage movement in Utah and the country, including:

  • The 150th anniversary of the first woman, Seraph Young, voting in the nation coming out of Utah
  • The 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which extended women’s voting rights throughout the United States
  • The 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which protects the voting rights for people of color