Sister-Wives and Suffragists: Polygamy and the Politics of Woman Suffrage, 1870-1896

Sister-Wives and Suffragists: Polygamy and the Politics of Woman Suffrage, 1870-1896
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Sister-Wives and Suffragists: Polygamy and the Politics of Woman Suffrage, 1870-1896

Author Lola Van Wagenen

Beginning in 1870, Utah women from both polygamist and monogamist marriages attempted to establish their primacy as the standard bearer of women's rights in the territory. Some sought support from leaders within the territory while others looked to those in the national arena. Ultimately, the activities of Mormon women helped to secure woman suffrage for Utah in 1870.

Although it was the New Movement women who helped advance the women's rights dialogue in the territory and establish a relationship between Utah's women and eastern suffragists, their efforts prepared the way for an alliance between Mormon women and national suffragists.

Many historians have overlooked the role of Mormon women in securing woman suffrage. Because Mormon women neither publicly drafted petitions nor held public demonstrations to seek the vote, many historians have concluded that they were not politically active until after they were enfranchised and then only in response to attempts to disfranchise them. However, the reaction of Mormon women to their enfranchisement and their readiness to assume an active political role in their communities suggest a different conclusion: that they were politicized prior to enfranchisement and their activities contributed to their own enfranchisement.

Nineteenth century woman suffragists in Utah left a legacy of activism, commitment and achievement.