This Pioneer Day, we at the Women’s Leadership Institute are particularly interested in celebrating the many pioneers that forged the path for women’s equality in the history of our great state.

The line up of women’s rights advocate pioneers is pretty stacked, in our opinion:

Martha Hughes Cannon

Martha Hughes Cannon was everything a woman or man could hope to become. She was a physician, school teacher, wife, suffragist, and the first woman elected to a state Senate. When Martha ran for Utah Senate, she ran against her husband on opposing party tickets. She won the election and stepped up to the plate in 1896. Martha’s grit and determination made her a key player in the suffragette movement, so much so that she ended up testifying in front of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee with Susan B. Anthony, advocating for the political rights of women. To say that Utah is proud to call Martha ours is an understatement.

Hannah Kaaepa

Born in Hawaii, Hannah Kaaepa moved to Utah with her mother in 1898 and began making her mark from day one. In February 1899, she accompanied Susa Young Gates and a group of suffragists to Washington DC to attend the third Triennial Congress of the National Council of Women. She spoke on behalf of Hawaiian women, urging support of Queen Liliuokalani in her suffrage efforts in Hawaii. At the end of her time, she presented a flower lei to Susan B. Anthony.

Seraph Young

People always say there is a first time for everything, and Seraph Young agrees. As the first woman to legally vote in the United States, Seraph Young made Utah the first place in the U.S. where a woman exercised her right to vote. It was Valentine’s Day in 1870, and 25 other women voted that day. Seraph Young’s ballot casting opened the door for millions of women to follow in her footsteps of civic duty and responsibility. Her historic act is displayed on the ceiling of the Utah House of Representatives chamber, so that all legislators can remember the roots by which this government was formed.

Franklin Snyder Richards

As an attorney for the LDS church, Franklin Richards fought for women’s suffrage to be included in the constitution the Utah Territory would present to become a state. He believed that if women in the state of Utah did not have the right to vote, the “precious boon” of statehood was not worth the price demanded. He believed that equal suffrage would “prove the brightest and purest ray of Utah’s glorious star.”

Emmeline B. Wells

“I believe in women, especially thinking women.” With this as her rally cry, Emmeline B. Wells became one of the most determined players in the suffrage movement. She was the editor of the Women’s Exponent, a periodical that featured women’s economic, educational, and suffrage rights. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton invited her to the 1879 National Woman’s Suffrage Association where she represented Utah. In her fight for suffrage, Emmeline met four different presidents. She died in 1921, the year after Congress passed the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote.

This line up isn’t even half of the pioneer women that fought tirelessly for women’s rights. Our friends at Better Days 2020 infuse awareness of women in Utah’s history and celebrate Utah’s suffragists’ involvement in historical events. If you’re looking to get your Pioneer Day fix, Better Days 2020 might be the place for you.

We proudly echo the words of Martha Hughes Cannon when she said, “The story of the struggle for women’s suffrage in Utah is the story of all efforts for the advancement and betterment of humanity.”

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