Utah's History

By Thomas G. Alexander; Eugene E. Campbell et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 31
Women in Twentieth-century Utah

Maureen Ursenbach Beecher and Kathryn L. MacKay

In the years since statehood Utah women have been more in the mainstream of American life than would appear from the uniqueness of their historical context. Even in their seemingly isolated Great Basin retreat, Mormon women from the beginning had responded to impulses from their sisters in the more sophisticated eastern United States, and with the incursions of the mails, the telegraph, the railroad, and the increasing numbers of non-Mormon women, they found themselves increasingly part of the national sisterhood. By 1900 the national women's movement focused almost exclusively on the gaining of suffrage, and Utah women found themselves begrudgingly honored for having already achieved the vote, not only once in 1870, but again in the state constitution of 1895. In the battle for equal political status, Utah women had but to cheer on their struggling contemporaries in an effort that would not end nationally until 1920.


Religious Tensions

Polygamy, the practice that had separated Mormon women from their gentile sisters, had diminished in importance with the Woodruff Manifesto. By the turn of the century the only polygamous families left in Utah were the ones that were formed prior to the 1890 official injunction and those few unions that were contracted secretly thereafter. For Mormon women the manifesto meant that they no longer needed to defend the principle of plural marriage. With the passing of the institution that had most pervasively influenced their lives, the last obvious barrier between the Mormon

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