Cheers for the ladies erupted at a Logan statehood celebration in 1896 as local Relief Society women thronged to the front of the congregation and offered their services as the newest voters of the state. Since Utah's constitution designated them as eligible to vote in the next election they celebrated "the falling of political shackles from their hands."
Other community celebrations resembled the Logan festivities. About 20 miles away in Newton, participants cheered the "newest citizens of the state," and in Huntsville The Relief Society women chose the day to open their new two-story brick hall financed by the females of the community.
It was a long, difficult effort for Utah's women to receive the right to vote. They had followed the example of national suffragists in their efforts by organizing groups in towns across Utah to promote their cause. In 1870 many gathered at "a great indignation meeting" in Salt Lake City which featured women's expressions of dismay for the bills passed in Congress to deny their participation in elections.
Probably the most moving oration given at one of these meetings was by Prescendia L. Kimball who said,
I stand before you a native-born citizen of the United States. My grandfather fought in the revolutionary war to establish a free government on this continent, and my father fought in the war of 1812 to secure and perpetuate a free government and to protect the rights and liberties of the citizens of the republic. I, their descendant, now stand up before this assembly to protest against the oppression of those who would take from us [women] the rights and liberties which our fathers risked their lives to obtain. What would our fathers say, the founders of this republic, if they could. . . see the glorious constitution which they framed and bequeathed to all future generations as the palladium of liberty, overridden and downtrodden by demagogues and torn to fragments by the schemes of corrupt men whose object is to oppress and injure the helpless."
The new state constitution rewarded them with the right to express their choices, but it did not last. After many more years of meetings by women and men across the country, in 1920 full suffrage finally became a national law.
Since then women still feel the need at times to express their feelings of frustration for their treatment by businesses and by the law. I remember trying to open a bank account in the 1980s. The bank was more interested in my husband's assets than mine. When the first statement arrived in the mail my husband's name was at the top. Disappointed, I told the bank I earned the money deposited there. My husband could use it if I gave my permission, but it was my money. I won the battle. A few years ago I donated money to a university group along with my husband. A note of thanks arrived addressed to him. Again I protested and received a letter of apology and thanks for my donation.
Writer Doris Goodwin was right when she said we had kicked the doors open to transform societal views but it turned out to be "easier to kick open the doors than to transform society."
Efforts now center on human rights for women in other countries. Hillary Clinton, has often addressed the need to create a world in which every woman is treated with respect and dignity. An old song sung by Utah women as they sought the vote still seems timely. It includes this verse:
"We think the world is old enough
That woman kind should stand
Beside creation's noble lords
And help to rule the land,
Close up saloons, improve the schools,
And lend a helping hand
To wave the flag of equal rights in Utah.
Hurrah! Hurrah! O come and march along.
Hurrah! Hurrah! we'll light the way with song,
Come brothers, sisters, join the strain
And swell it sweet and strong,
We'll wave the flag of equal rights in Utah."