"The Key to All Reform" : Mormon Women, Religious Identity, and Suffrage, 1887-1920
The University of Toledo
When Mormon suffrage leaders of Utah, such as Emmeline B. Wells, called for a meeting of suffragists to be held in the Salt Lake Assembly Hall on January 10, 1889, they were soon overwhelmed by the number of women in attendance. The meeting resulted in the formation of the Utah Woman Suffrage Association, which sought to restore the franchise to the women of Utah who had lost the vote two years prior as a result of the Edmunds-Tucker Act. Not only would they inevitably achieve re-enfranchisement through Utahs statehood campaign, Mormon women also participated in the reintegration of the national woman suffrage movement, which reunified in May 1890. Throughout this process, Mormon women continually reconciled and renegotiated their identities, which were complicated by ideas about religion, gender, sexuality, and civic duty in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America.
In "'The Key to All Reform': Mormon Women, Religious Identity, and Suffrage, 1887-1920" I contend that the Mormon womens suffrage movement was inextricably linked to developing gender ideologies within the Latter-day Saint Church. Using Mormon womens publications, this study traces the evolution of female Mormon activism and intellectual thought as Mormon suffragists adapted to changes within the national suffrage movement, ultimately reintegrating themselves into the nation-wide battle for the ballot. Complicated by nationwide debates about polygamy and driven by social reform, the Mormon suffrage movement became a catalyst for the debate about "woman's sphere" — which was forever transformed by suffrage. With persecution seemingly in their past and developments towards statehood as early as 1894, Mormon women increasingly positioned themselves as civic beings in a newly adopted state. [From the author]