Women's Suffrage Primary Source Set
About Women’s Suffrage
In 1919, the 19th Amendment was passed. It stated that all citizens, regardless of sex, have the right to vote. In theory, this act extended suffrage (the right to vote) to all women. However, many women of color were still denied their right to vote due to racial discrimination or to a lack of citizenship, which was not granted to American Indians until 1924 and was also denied to many Asian American immigrants until 1952. This amendment took decades of work to create, and it sparked intense debates across the country.
However, Utah had been involved with the question of women’s suffrage long before the 19th Amendment. In 1870, a Utahn became the first woman to vote under an equal suffrage law in the United States. Seventeen years later, the Edmunds-Tucker Act revoked the right to vote for Utah women as part of anti-polygamy laws. However, polygamy was prohibited within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1890, and women’s right to vote was restored in Utah’s constitution in 1896. Then, women’s suffrage was ensured nationally by the 19th Amendment, and Utah became the seventeenth state to ratify the amendment. These primary sources show this complex history of women’s suffrage in Utah and the United States as a whole.
White, Jean Bickmore. “Women’s Suffrage in Utah.” Utah History Encyclopedia. https://www. uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/w/WOMENS_SUFFRAGE_IN_UTAH.shtml.
Brown, Barbara Jones, Naomi Watkins, and Katherine Kitterman. “Gaining, Losing, and Winning Back the Vote: The Story of Utah Women’s Suffrage.” Better Days 2020. https://www. utahwomenshistory.org/2018/02/receiving-losing-and-winning-back-the-vote-the-story-of-utah-womens-suffrage/.
Image: Harris & Ewing, Washington, D.C. Some of the picket line of Nov. 10, 1917. Left to right: Mrs. Catherine Martinette, Eagle Grove, Iowa. Mrs. William Kent, Kentfield, California. Miss Mary Bartlett Dixon, Easton, Md. Mrs. C.T. Robertson, Salt Lake City, Utah. Miss Cora Week, New York City. Miss Amy Ju[e]ngling, Buffalo, N.Y. Miss Ha. United States Washington D.C, 1917. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000296/.
Resources for Historical Context
Elementary School Students
- Brief article that provides important information on women’s suffrage
- This interactive painting contains miniature biographies on various women who fought for women’s rights, including suffrage. The website it is from has other helpful resources as well, including articles and a lesson plan on suffrage.
- The National Women’s History Center is a wonderful resource for many topics in women’s history, including women’s suffrage. It contains lesson plans, secondary source articles, biographies of notable women in American history, and more.
- Short video clips from the documentary Not For Ourselves Alone are available from PBS. They contain great information on the history of American women’s suffrage.
- Article from National Geographic providing general information on westward expansion
- This article provides a history of women’s suffrage in Utah and briefly discusses how minority groups, such as Native Americans and African Americans, were still denied the right to vote in different ways.
Secondary School Students
- A timeline from the Susan B. Anthony Center provides a detailed list of events from 1869 to today related to American women’s suffrage.
- This New York Times article discusses the complexities within the American women’s suffrage movement, especially in terms of how race played a role.
- Article focused on the great contributions that were made by African American women to the suffrage movement.
- This page has numerous articles on Native American forms of government and the roles that women played in politics.
- An article that provides a brief introduction to the Cult of Domesticity and how it impacted women’s suffrage.
After reading through these primary sources, discuss these questions in groups to better understand the history of the women’s suffrage movement.
Elementary School Students
- Do all citizens have the right to vote in the United States today?
- Why was women’s suffrage significant? How would you feel if you could not vote as an adult?
Secondary School Students
- How did the Cult of Domesticity influence women’s suffrage? (See the list of Resources for Historical Context for information on the Cult of Domesticity.)
- How was the issue of taxation related to women’s right to vote?
- Did the 19th Amendment grant the right to vote to everyone? If not, who in the United States was excluded from voting? (See the list of Resources for Historical Context for information.)
Teaching and Learning
Tags: American Women’s History, Legal History, Progressive Era, Utah History, Civics.
- Third Grade Standard III
- Fourth Grade Standard III
- Utah History, Strand 3: Utah in the Union
- United States History II, Strand 2: Reform Movements
Written by Mariah Todd
Originally published in September 2020
Primary Source 1
Series 3212 Box 5 Folder 23, File 95.
Description: This source is a letter to Utah’s Constitutional Convention from 1895, when the Utah Constitution was being drafted.
- Were there some women who did not desire the right to vote? If so, why?
- Besides women, were there other groups in Utah or the country as a whole who were also denied the right to vote? Is this true for any groups here today?
- When did women gain the right to vote in the whole of the United States?
Primary Source 2
Series 3212 Box 7 Folder 1, pp. 102-103
Description: March 27, 1895 speech from Congressmen R. Mackintosh, Fred J. Kiesel, and Robert McFarland during debates on including women’s suffrage in Utah’s constitution.
- Are these people for or against women’s suffrage?
- What is one reason they list for what they think about including women’s suffrage in the Utah constitution?
Primary Source 3
Series 6300 Reel 1, Proceedings reports pp. 40-46
Description: A short poem from 1895 by a Constitutional Convention delegate regarding the Utah Constitutional Convention.
- What does this source say about suffrage?
- What was the stated purpose of presenting this poem to the Constitutional Convention?
Primary Source 4
Series 6300 Reel 1, Proceedings reports pp. 37-38
Description: 1895 poem describing proceedings during the Utah Constitutional Convention, including suffrage.
- According to the poem, how do some people feel about suffrage?
- Why would some government officials decide to not vote on the suffrage question?
Primary Source 5
Series 428 Box 6 Folder 64, 1905 SR 3
Description: 1905 additions to the Utah constitution on suffrage.
- 1. What did the source mean when it stated that there may be qualifications on who can vote based on property ownership and education attainment?
- 2. In American history, have there been limits on voting rights based on property ownership?
Primary Source 6
Series 3214 Box 1, Page 7 Article 4
Description: 1895, Article 4, Section 1 of Utah’s constitution. States that suffrage is not refused to anyone on the basis of sex.
- What two rights did this part of Utah’s constitution give to women?
- After reading more about suffrage in Utah, is 1895 the first time women were given the right to vote in Utah?
Primary Source 7
Series 428 Box 16 Folder 36, 1919 Senate Memorial 1
Description: 1919 Memorial to Congress from Utah Governor and Legislature
- What is the request that is being made?
- For how long had the question of women’s suffrage been considered in the United States Congress?
Page Last Updated September 16, 2020.