A Voice of Their Own: The Woman Suffrage Press, 1840-1910

By Martha M. Solomon | Go to book overview
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If these same women would cast the ballot for the men who come here and call them fools, ignorant dupes, and their children a name one does not like to soil the paper with, then, I suppose, they would be counted brave and intelligent. . . . So far from relinquishing their own right to vote . . . they are all the time working in the interests of equal political rights for all women; and furthermore, have interceded with the Legislature to so revise the Statutes of Utah as to make women eligible to office. . . . We trust this will not wound the sensitive feelings of Mr. Cassidy [Congressional representative from Nevada]. ( 1 December 1888, 100)

After the abandonment of polygamy opened the way for Utah statehood, the Exponent endorsed woman suffrage in the Utah State Convention. The success of the Utah Woman Suffrage Association in obtaining affirmative commitments from most delegates and woman suffrage planks on all party platforms was due largely to the efforts of Woodward Wells, president of the Utah Woman Suffrage Association, and her associates. The Exponent chronicled their efforts in detail.

As the energies and strategies of the woman's movement outside of Utah focused more on the single issue of suffrage, it quite expectedly assumed dimensions of unlimited power and possibility. The Exponent never succumbed to the illusion that suffrage would ameliorate all of the ills of society or open every door to women. Instead, Woodward Wells saw the apathy of woman and the power of tradition as the two greatest restraints on her freedom. She wrote that without constant vigilance on the part of woman, the ballot was merely a "shadow without the substance" ( 1 March 1880, 146; 1 July 1882, 17, 18). The Exponent suggested that women vote as a block, run for public office (and support woman candidates), and demand social improvements.

Rather than an end in itself, suffrage was the means whereby woman could "exert an instrumentality in all departments" ( 15 February 1880, 140). The Exponent repeatedly urged women to exercise their right to vote frequently and responsibly. When Utah women were reenfranchised in 1897, the paper's masthead was changed to "The Ballot in the Hands of the Women of Utah Should be a Power to Better the Home, the State, and the Nation."


Conclusion

To a significant extent, the Exponent provided a power base from and through which female leadership in Utah functioned. Mormon women had found submissiveness to be incompatible with the values of piety and purity. Because their piety demanded that they de

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