In the spirit of Election season, it is interesting to note that in 1870 by becoming the second (Wyoming was the first) United States Territory to allow women to vote in municipal elections.The first election in Wyoming that women were eligible to vote was in September, 1870. It should be duly noted that the relative population of women in Wyoming at this time was considerably less than the population of women in Utah at the time.
The first woman to cast her vote in the modern United States was Seraph Young, who happened to be Brigham Young’s great niece. This historic vote took place on February 14, 1870, 50 years before the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
This legacy has been largely forgotten, but merits celebration. For more information about Utah Suffrage and women’s history in Utah, please visit: Better Days 2020. The organization has been instrumental in the creation of a new Utah state license plate commemorating the Utah Suffrage.
The Utah Territory would again make history in 1871. Kane County, which is located in the heart of the boundaries of the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area. Mary Elizabeth Woolley Chamberlain became the first woman in the United States to be elected to a county clerk position.
Mrs. Chamberlain continued to serve and was elected as mayor of Kanab in 1871. Making her election more remarkable was that all of the elected town council seats went to women as well. Vinnie Jepson, Tamar Hamblin, Blanche Hamblin, and Luella McAllister were elected to the town council with Mayor Mary Elizabeth Woolley Chamberlain. Vinnie Jepson was later replaced by Ada Seegmiller.
The women were active leaders, promoting temperance, were responsible for building a dike and improving irrigation, and even helped clean up with the town with a declaration of “Stink Weed Day,” offering $2.50, $5, and $10 for the best property clean ups in town. The women were advocates of businesses and residents alike.
A commentary of the day is that historians report that all of the women completed all of her regular work at home and with children, without using outside help.