Jul 23, 2010

My Utah Feminist Roots

The other day I was talking to a relative, who told me she thought women shouldn't vote, because we think a certain way that is unproductive in political causes. We want to give too much, is the way she explained it. Government is not for giving or taking care of people, it is for the limited amount of governing that the American People need, which shouldn't involve welfare or anything else.

I understand her political viewpoint, though I object to her assumptions (that women inherrently vote in favor of welfare and also tend to vote unwisely.) And as I was listening (respectfully) to what she had to say, a thought came to my mind.

When did women in Utah get the right to vote?

From this source:

Women's Suffrage--the right of women to vote--was won twice in Utah. It was granted first in 1870 by the territorial legislature but revoked by Congress in 1887 as part of a national effort to rid the territory of polygamy. It was restored in 1895, when the right to vote and hold office was written into the constitution of the new state.

Who was the first woman senator ever elected?

From This Source:

In a much publicized election, [Hattie Hughes]Cannon was one of five Democrats running as "at large" candidates for state senator from Salt Lake County. Suffrage activist Emmeline B. Wells and Cannon's husband Angus were among the Republicans standing for the office.
“ "Local newspapers gave play to the fact that a leading Mormon polygamist was defeated by his fourth wife. The Salt Lake Tribune, proponent of the Republican view, editorialized that Angus Munn Cannon was deserving of readers' votes. The Salt Lake Herald, a Democratic newspaper, countered: "Mrs. Mattie Hughes Cannon, his wife, is the better man of the two. Send Mrs. Cannon to the State Senate and let Mr. Cannon, as a Republican, remain at home to manage home industry" (see link, SL Tribune). ”

One of my favorite feminists, and a real hero of mine: Emmeline B. Wells, the Fifth General Relief Society President of the church. Some interesting facts:

1) She was formally educated and bright from a young age. Took her first teaching job at age 15, shortly before she married for the first time.

2) Her husband left her after their first baby died. She resumed teaching and became the third wife of Newel K. Whitney, and had two little girls by him.

3) After Whitney died, she proposed marriage (how feminist is that!) to Daniel H. Wells, becoming his seventh wife. At first they didn't really know each other well or associate, but in later years of their life they loved each other dearly and enjoyed each others' companionship.

4) Edited the Womens' Exponent, the first successful Women's magazine in Utah.

5) Joined the Suffrage movement and wrote extensively on women and the amazing things they had to offer our country. Wrote extensively about how education for women is so important.

6) Eventually became respected and quoted by such people as Susan B. Anthony and other leaders of the Suffrage movement.

7) Ran for the senate as a republican, was beaten by the first women ever to be elected a Senator in the United States, Martha Hughes Cannon.

8) Was appointed General Relief Society President at age 82, served for ten years until her death.

Go read up on her life and you'll see exactly what she was, and what the cause can add to the church and the gospel, and what a stunningly beautiful thing such a woman is.


Putz said...

she sounds like toooooooo much of a maverick to me

Josh said...

It has never crossed my mind that women shouldn't be able to vote because the way they think is unproductive in politics. I think that is a dangerous way of thinking.

Just like a marriage, both viewpoints, opinions, and wisdom from males and females are important for finding the best solutions and for managing in the best manner.

The point that women in Utah were able to vote AND run for office 50 years, and then again 25 years, before it became a national amendment says something about the culture that has extended from the restoration of the gospel.

A question I have, which is a little off topic but not entirely, is how do you define feminism?

I suffer from "feminism as a word is negative and suggests that one gender is greater than the other" syndrome. And I don't like it. And I know that isn't always the case, but too often it feels like instead of making sure men and women are equal it is about (to some people) proving that women don't need men and are in fact superior. And while that's definitely the case with my wife (she is superior) I feel like it, feminism, is used more as a way to divide instead of join together the two genders of God's children. Perhaps that is because of how feminism is portrayed by those who hate the idea of women being equals with men, but I don't think it is entirely.

You've probably blogged about this before and I may have missed it, but I would love to hear how you define feminism and its importance.

NoSurfGirl said...


I am always so glad when people ask that question.

I think that the word "Feminist" has been adulterated and confiscated by certain movements (eg the GLBT people, the pro-abortion people) etc as a lobbying board.

I agree also, that "feminist" has been sort of twisted to mean those who are jaded and angry about the oppression of women, in a way similar to how civil rights have become these days. But would you say that the civil rights movement ought to be labeled something else? I wouldn't.

Just like I wouldn't say that we shouldn't call ourselves "mormons" simply because the word has been misused and twisted by society at large, I wouldn't give up "feminist." Because feminism, at its root, is a movement about empowering women and educating them, and giving them opportunities they would not ordinarily have (and still don't, in some places.)

For a post on feminism and how I feel about it, you can go here.