In the spirit of Election season, it is interesting to note that in 1870 by becoming the second United States Territory to allow women to vote in municipal elections. This action preceded the 19th Amendment to the Constitution by fifty years. Interestingly, the first woman to cast her vote in Utah was Sarah Young, Brigham Young’s great niece.
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.