Utah and the 19th Amendment

State of Utah depicted in purple, white, and gold (colors of the National Woman’s Party suffrage flag) – indicating Utah was one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment. Courtesy Megan Springate.
State of Utah depicted in purple, white, and gold (colors of the National Woman’s Party suffrage flag) – indicating Utah was one of the original 36 states to ratify the 19th Amendment. CC0

Women first organized and collectively fought for suffrage at the national level in July of 1848. Suffragists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott convened a meeting of over 300 people in Seneca Falls, New York. In the following decades, women marched, protested, lobbied, and even went to jail. By the 1870s, women pressured Congress to vote on an amendment that would recognize their suffrage rights. This amendment became known as the 19th Amendment.

After decades of arguments for and against women's suffrage, Congress finally voted in favor of the 19th Amendment in 1919. This is called ratification. After Congress ratified the 19th Amendment, at least 36 states needed to vote in favor of it for it to become law.

Religion played a big role in the fight for women’s suffrage in Utah. The territory was home to Mormon communities that practiced polygamy. This means that Mormon men often had several wives. Anti-Mormon politicians believed that recognizing women’s suffrage rights would empower women to end the practice of polygamy. For this reason, these politicians supported women’s voting rights.

state flag of utah
State flag of Utah. CC0

In contrast, many Mormon men believed that if Mormon women had the vote, it would show the country that they were not oppressed by the practice of polygamy. As a result, many Mormon men supported women’s suffrage. In 1870, the Utah territory passed legislation officially recognizing women’s voting rights.

But in 1887, Utah women lost the right to vote. The Edmunds-Tucker Anti-Polygamy Act, passed by the United States Congress, put restrictions on the practice of polygamy. It also took away women’s voting rights in the Utah Territory. Both Mormon and non-Mormon women were upset and formed a number of suffrage organizations.

When the Territory applied for statehood in 1895, women convinced politicians to make women’s suffrage part of the new state Constitution. When Utah achieved statehood in January of 1896, women were legally able to vote.

Even though Utah women could vote, the state supported women’s suffrage for all. On October 2, 1919 Utah voted to ratify the 19th Amendment.

Last updated: November 15, 2018