creative nineteenth-century movements that were nurtured in the West— Mormonism and Populism—may have hampered the cause of suffrage in the rest of the nation. National leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone were keenly aware of the stigma attached to suffrage by those with deep antipathies toward Mormonism and the political left. Yet they were unable to break these links in the eastern public mind.
At the same time, western women's choices as voters immediately became part of the controversy over suffrage itself. When Utah enfranchised women, those women who voted Republican risked being viewed as traitors to Mormonism, while the large majorities of Mormon women who voted to support their church confirmed the belief, already held by many Americans, that female voters would be easily manipulated or shamelessly immoral. Helen Kendrick Johnson, conservative author of Women and the Republic (1897), argued vehemently against woman suffrage on the grounds that Colorado women had shown themselves to be Populists, socialists, and anarchists—practitioners of a “strain of exalted fanaticism.” At the same time, the results of the 1894 campaign persuaded People's Party leaders that the majority of Colorado women were Republicans and traitors to the Populist cause.
The success of suffrage in the West was no mean achievement. It enabled thousands of American women to cast their ballots and participate in campaigns—and a few to serve in elected office—before 1920. By the 1910s, western suffrage helped advance the national cause simply through the rising number of states where women voted and these voters' growing visibility and clout. In granting women's political rights, the West experienced early all the opportunities and dilemmas that would emerge later nationwide. The West served notice to the nation, early on, that women could be effective organizers in the political arena. Western women showed that they cared deeply about politics and could be strong partisans in the midst of critical campaigns. They seldom united in one party; diverse women had many different priorities and loyalties. And western women showed that they could think for themselves, often straying from the party-line paths that men wanted them to tread.