Documentary Tells Story of Women's Suffrage in the West

Documentary Tells Story of Women's Suffrage in the West

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Carole Mikita ReportingAugust 26th, 1920 the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, American women get the vote. But here in Utah women already had that right; it's a little known chapter in state history. A U of U professor documents that chapter in a film titled, "Let the Women Vote".

Fifty years before their American sisters back East, Utah women and others in the West fought for and won the right to vote. Following the Civil War, suffrage bills were introduced in Congress but quickly defeated. In 1869, Wyoming's first territorial legislature passed a law giving women the right to vote.

Louise Degn, Ph.D., Producer, 'Let the Women Vote!': "Western women led the women's rights movement to get the vote."

Utah's law passed two months after Wyoming's, but here 17-thousand women had the vote, in Wyoming only a thousand.

Louise Degn: "Three days after the law was enacted, the women got a chance to try out their new right, casting ballots in the Salt Lake City municipal election, the first fully enfranchised women to vote in the nation."

This drew the attention of the Eastern Suffragists, and even though Utah women lost the vote for 17 years during the so-called 'polygamy wars', Utah feminists were looked on as leading lights.

Louise Degn: "Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton came to Utah to visit and they spoke from the tabernacle pulpit to the people of Utah. There were very good relationships between the Utah women feminist leaders and the national leaders."

U. of U. Prof. Degn says because everything was new in western territories, women had more rights when it came to property, even divorce.

Louise Degn: "It wasn't just the right to vote, that women had more rights because, I think, more responsibilities out on the frontier."

"Let the Women Vote" has a screening tonight at the Salt Lake City Library.

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