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Latter-day Saint Women Impacted U.S. Suffrage Movement, 19th Amendment

August 18, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women's right to vote

Utah Governor William Spry meets in his office with suffrage leaders. This 1915 photograph show Emmeline Wells, recognized leader of the group, seated at the left of the Governor. Photo courtesy of Utah State Historical Society, courtesy of Church News.2020

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By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News

August 18, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted all women in the United States the right to vote.

During the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention in Atlanta in February 1895, Susan B. Anthony put her arm around Latter-day Saint suffragist Emmeline B. Wells and recognized Wells in front of the entire conference. “I had ten minutes to report Utah and Miss Anthony came forward put her arms around me and made such an eloquent appeal that some of the ladies were moved to tears, it was a tribute of personal affection as well as a flattering compliment to the Territory,” Wells wrote in her diary (“The Diaries of Emmeline B. Wells,” February 2, 1895).

Emmeline B. Wells-2
Portrait of Emmeline B. Wells taken January 14, 1879. Emmeline B. Wells traveled to Washington, D.C., in January 1879 to attend the annual convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Photo courtesy of Church History Library.null
                      This demonstration of public affection and friendship was an important moment for Wells, who edited the Woman’s Exponent for 37 years and helped to spread ideas and information about women’s suffrage. Wells was also instrumental in the 1889 founding and organization of the Woman Suffrage Association of Utah (an auxiliary of the National Woman Suffrage Association, headed by Anthony).

“I have desired with all my heart to do those things that would advance women in moral and spiritual as well as educational work and tend to the rolling on of the work of God upon the earth,” wrote Wells in her diary (“The Diaries of Emmeline B. Wells,” January 4, 1878).

Tiffany Bowles of the Church History Museum told the Church News why Latter-day Saint women had an impact so many years ago — and by extension today: “They were used to organizing and pushing for action, so it was very natural that they would then push for the right to vote. And then once given the right to vote, they were well-informed, active voters,” she explained.

The following timeline details the journey of Utah women gaining the right to vote.

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