Special Feature

100 Years of Women's Suffrage
June 4, 2019
Special Feature
100 Years of Women's Suffrage
Author BYU Studies Staff

Happy 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage! In the United States, the Nineteenth Amendment was passed 100 years ago today. These articles and books from BYU Studies tell the story about women’s suffrage in Utah. 

emmeline_b._wells.jpeg“An Advocate for Women: The Public Life of Emmeline B. Wells, 1870—1920”, by Carol Cornwall Madsen, BYU Studies
In her fifty years as a public figure, Emmeline B. Wells edited the Woman's Exponent, represented Latter-day Saint women in national women's organizations, courageously defended her religion in the halls of Congress, and helped mitigate anti-Mormon sentiments, all before becoming Relief Society General President in 1910 at age eighty-two. Her mediating efforts won friends inside and outside LDS circles and earned her a sculpted bust placed in a niche in the Utah state Capitol. The simple inscription speaks volumes: "A Fine Soul Who Served Us." "Emmeline Wells left indelible footprints not only in Utah—where she had a close working relationship with five church presidents—but on the national stage, including interviews with four U.S. Presidents, one in her own home. . . . Madsen broadens and deepens what she began in her award-winning dissertation [on Wells's life and work] to provide the full, engaging story of this woman who both chronicled and made history. Wells encouraged and inspired the women of her day. With Madsen's eloquent retelling, Emmeline's accomplishments may now inspire those of our own age, too." Ronald K. Esplin, Joseph Smith Papers general editor, president Mormon History Association (2006–2007)

Sister-Wives and Suffragists: Polygamy and the Politics of Woman Suffrage, 1870-1896”, by Lola Van Wagenen, BYU Studies
Emmeline B. Wells was involved in women’s suffrage on a national level. “Wells seems to have willed herself to stay alive to see the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment; she dies six months afterward in her ninety-third year.” (page 154)

“Emmeline B. Wells: ‘Am I Not a Woman and a Sister?’”, Carol C. Madsen, BYU Studies Quarterly Vol 22 no. 2 
Two thousand suffragists packed DeGuiver's opera house in Atlanta, Georgia, for the annual convention of the National-American Woman's Suffrage Association on 2 February 1895. Emmeline B. Wells, delegate from Utah, had just concluded her report on the status of woman's suffrage in Utah Territory. With Utah's constitutional convention only a month away, she expressed confidence the convention delegates would see fit to include woman's suffrage in the organic law of the new state. She reviewed the work of the Utah Woman's Suffrage Association, which she headed, in achieving a favorable disposition of the convention delegates toward this issue and expressed hope that Utah would join Wyoming and Colorado as the only three states in the Union granting suffrage to women.

It was a satisfying and long-awaited occasion for the Mormon suffragist. But the moment was marked indelibly as a milestone when Susan B. Anthony, the grande dame of the suffrage movement, came forward and put her arm around the Utah delegate. The stately suffrage leader towered above the tiny Emmeline, but their dedication to the cause of women knew no such disparity. Enthusiastically endorsing the work of her Utah colleague, the elder Anthony spoke with such fervor that the audience was visibly moved by this spontaneous display of deep affection.

“The Power of Combination: Emmeline B. Wells and the National and International Councils of Women”, Carol C. Madsen, BYU Studies Quarterly Vol 33 no. 4
Emmeline B. Wells (1828-1921) was a leader not only for Latter-day Saints but also for women around the world. A high point of that work was the 1899 Congress of Women in London, called by the International Council of Women, which Emmeline attended as an officer of the National Council of Women. Her attendance at the women’s congress in London crowned her successful and highly visible role as an honored advocate for women and as a bridge builder for the often maligned and misunderstood women of her faith, and she also brought women of different faiths together. This article tells of her involvement with the issues of her day, especially women’s suffrage.