How polygamy helped and hurt Utah women get the vote

Feb 13, 2020, 5:19 AM

Suffrage hikers who took part in the suffrage hike from New York City to Washington, D.C., joining ...

Suffrage hikers who took part in the suffrage hike from New York City to Washington, D.C., joining the March 3, 1913, National American Woman Suffrage Association parade. Flickr Commons Project

SALT LAKE CITY – Polygamy was a factor in Utah women getting-and losing-the right to vote. But scholars are split on how big a role it played.

Ron Fox, a history buff who sits on Utah’s Martha Hughes Cannon Statue Committee, thinks some persistent wives had more to do with passing women’s suffrage in the state legislature than anything.

“When Brigham Young opened up the Utah Central Railroad, there was a famous trip about four days before the legislature re-met in early February. They were celebrating the completion of the railroad between Ogden and Salt Lake…They went up to Ogden, and the [Deseret News] paper reporter was on the train. And he said the wives worked their husbands over to pass the bill,” Fox said.

Fox also believes Utah women wanted rights that had recently been granted to African-American and Chinese men.

Other historians believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wanted women to vote to help change negative public perceptions about polygamy.

Utah Poet Laureate Paisley Rekdal said some people on the East Coast of the United States initially supported the idea of women voting in the Beehive State, but they had an ulterior motive.

“East Coast suffragists really wanted Utah women to get the vote because they thought it would be a nice test case scenario. If Utah women got the right to vote, would they vote polygamy out? In fact, they didn’t vote polygamy out because it was never put on the ballot,” Rekdal said.

However, many women in Utah at that time also supported polygamy, which is one of the reasons why the federal government moved to disenfranchise them–twice.

“In the late 1880s, there was a bill passed [in Congress] that prohibited women who were in polygamy from participating in elections. So, it actually banned Latter-day Saint women from voting. And then in 1887 with the Edmunds-Tucker Act, it took the vote away from all women,” Fox said.

Full voting rights were restored to women when Utah became a state in 1896. That is also the same year that Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, a plural wife, was elected the first female state senator in Utah and the United States.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

baby feet, utah postpartum retreat helps new moms...

Britt Johnson

Utah company aims to help postpartum moms with special retreats

The founder of Utah Postpartum Retreat said she thinks new moms are at high risk for developing postpartum mood disorders because they lack support.

24 minutes ago

Example of a possible future salvage project on Lake Powell....

Derrick Jones

Lake Powell asks for public’s help locating possible salvage

Park officials want to know where sunken vessels were seen as Lake Powell reached record low levels.

55 minutes ago

Power lines are pictured in utah, utah has lower electricity bill than other states...

Tammy Kikuchi

Study shows Utahns pay cheapest electricity bills in the country

Utah residents are paying less for power than any other state. Rocky Mountain Power says they work hard to keep it that way.

12 hours ago

Welcome to Tooele sign is pictured on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.A Child was taken to a nearby Hospita...

Derrick Jones

Update: Child hit by a car in Tooele

TOOELE, Utah — A four year old child was hit by a car Thursday afternoon near Spencer’s Field in Tooele. According to Cpt. Colbey Bentley of Tooele City Police Department, the child was injured however is in stable condition. Life flight was originally dispatched, but on-scene medical teams determined that ground transportation to a Salt […]

12 hours ago

FILE: High winds toppled trees that had stood for decades at the Ft. Douglas Post Cemetery, damagin...

Simone Seikaly

Rocky Mountain Power preparing for potentially strong wind storm in Salt Lake

The National Weather Service said wind gusts could reach 65 miles per hour in portions of western Utah valleys on Saturday.

13 hours ago

KSL NewsRadio's Jeff Caplan sits inside a FEMA emergency transmitter....

Amanda Dickson

KSL NewsRadio’s role as “first informers” in any emergency

In the worst-case scenarios and emergencies, KSL NewsRadio will be the first to provide essential information. We're doing it alongside FEMA.

13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

How polygamy helped and hurt Utah women get the vote