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Millcreek Journal

Millcreek proclamation recognizes 100th anniversary of League of Women Voters

Feb 24, 2020 01:50PM ● By Kirk Bradford

City Council, Katherine Biele and members of the League of Women Voters hold Millcreek’s proclamation recognizing their 100th anniversary. (Kirk Bradford/City Journals)

By Kirk Bradford | [email protected]

All across the country, citizens remember and are honoring the history behind women's suffrage and the determination to establish voting equality among women.

It was on Aug. 26, 1920 when the 19th amendment was brought on by not one singular event but a series of events. Utah couples like Emily S. Richards, a woman suffrage crusader, and her husband, Frank Richards, are a historic example of a couple who fought together for women’s right to vote.

At last month’s city council meeting, the council signed a proclamation recognizing the 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters.

Throughout Utah, you could walk into almost any city office and see the memorabilia created for the anniversary, from bumper stickers of Alberta Henry’s smiling face to Zitkala-Sa looking toward the sun. You may have even seen the fake tattoos of a purple and orange lily flower with the word “trailblazer” written beneath it.

At last month’s meeting, the City Council first recognized Seraph Young, Brigham Young’s granddaughter. She was recorded as the first woman in any state or territory now part of the U.S. to vote in a municipal election.

The proclamation recognizes the names and dates of individuals who took part in the strategies that helped move the suffrage movement state to state and create the League of Women Voters.

The president of the League of Women Voters and local columnist, Katherine Biele, attended the meeting along with other members of the organization. They each took turns reading the proclamation during the meeting. The League of Women Voters was formed on Valentine’s Day, 1920, precisely 50 years from the day Young cast the first vote. 

Millcreek’s proclamation states, “Let it be known, that the Mayor and City Council of Millcreek do hereby recognize the League of Women Voters as an important Civic organization working for the welfare of all Utahns and recognizes the long history of civic engagement by the organization and its intent to pursue this work for the next 100 years.”

Utah Sen. Mike Lee also spoke commemorating women’s suffrage while in Washington, DC. He said, “Mr. President, on February 14, 1870, a remarkable thing happened in Utah — something that changed the course of history not just in our state, but in our entire nation. Seraph Young, a 23-year-old school teacher, became the first American woman to cast a vote in a political election under an equal suffrage law…It was a moment that both followed and preceded a long line of remarkable contributions from Utah women — women who have pioneered and led in our state and in our nation.”

In the February 2018 session of the Utah Legislature, Utah Sen. Todd Weiler proposed a bill to place a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon at the U.S. Capital Building.

The bill passed and Sen. Deidre Henderson and Rep. Karen Kwan commissioned a Utah artist to create the statue. Ben Hammond is working on it now and by the end of the year, it will be shipped to Washington and placed in the capitol rotunda.

Cannon was a medical doctor in the late 19th century, earning degrees at University Deseret (now the University of Utah) and University of Michigan in both medicine and pharmaceuticals. She later earned degrees in oratory and public speaking; she had four degrees by the time she was 25.

Cannon worked as a doctor and fought for women’s rights and became a leader in Utah’s burgeoning women’s suffrage movement and helped put women enfranchisement into Utah’s constitution when it was granted statehood in 1896. Later that year in November she went on to become the first woman elected as a state senator in the United States.

For years now, in rankings involving all 50 states, Utah has consistently been one of the worst states for gender pay discrimination as well as a leader in fighting against the gender pay gap. In 2018–19, Utah had the largest and second largest gender pay gap among all 50 states.

The fight for suffrage may have ended long ago in Utah, but the fight for equality continues.

“It is incredible to me that any woman should consider the fight for full equality won. It has just begun.” —Alice Paul, 1920