American women gained the right to vote on August 18, 1920, but we celebrate National Women’s Equality Day on August 26 each year because that is the day the nineteenth amendment was certified by the U. S. Secretary of State, Bainbridge Colby.
But in Utah, women’s right to vote in state and local elections came much earlier; the first vote cast by a woman, Seraph Young, happened on February 14, 1870, in a Salt Lake City municipal election. Although Wyoming was the first territory to extend voting rights to women, Utah held the first election where it was allowed, and thus was the first territory or state where women could cast a vote.
A century and a half later, women throughout the country continue using their voices by voting in both local and national political races.
In celebration of Women’s Equality Day—and to encourage more citizens of all genders, races, and creeds to use their political power by voting—here’s a list of books that explore the history of suffrage.
by Carol Cornwall Madsen
In her nearly fifty years as a public figure in Utah, Emmeline B. Wells edited the Woman’s Exponent, represented Mormon women in the woman suffrage movement, courageously defended plural marriage, and helped mitigate anti-Mormon sentiment, all before becoming Relief Society General President at the age of eighty-two. Emmeline’s life was not the norm of her era. Born on the outer fringes of a rural society, she became an intellectual, a middle-class American, and a prominent Mormon. A life-size bust of Emmeline sits in the Utah state capitol building, the lone woman so honored for seventy years. The simple inscription speaks volumes: “A Fine Soul Who Served Us.”
By Elaine Weiss
The nail-biting climax of one of the greatest political battles in American history. Nashville, August 1920. The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, granting all women the vote, is on the verge of ratification—or defeat. Out of the thirty-six states needed, thirty-five have approved it, and one last state is still in play—Tennessee. After a seven-decade crusade to win the ballot, this is the moment of truth for the suffragists, and Nashville becomes a frenzied battleground as the enormous forces allied for and against women’s suffrage make their last stand. Elaine Weiss artfully recasts the saga of women’s quest for the vote by focusing on the campaign’s last six weeks, when it all came down to one ambivalent state.
By Jennifer Chiaverini
Leading up to the 1912 presidential election, women worked to further the suffragette movement by planning a march in Washington DC before the inauguration. This little-known historical event comes to life in Chiaverini’s novel, which explores how three historical women—Alice Paul, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Maud Malone—overcame prejudice, philosophical differences, and social forces to pull off the march.
By David Roberts
This gorgeously illustrated book tells the history of the suffragette movement in both England and America, noting how they paralleled each other and where they diverged. Written in an accessible tone, the book tells the story of the women—and a few men—who fought to equalize the vote.
By Neylan McBlain
A history of the suffragist movement among the pioneers who settled the West, in particular members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
By Claire Rudolf Murphy
Not allowed to go hiking with her father and brothers because she is a girl, Bessie learns about women’s rights when she attends a suffrage rally led by Susan B. Anthony.
By Brigit Quinn
From the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation to the first woman to wear pants on the Senate floor, Quinn shines a spotlight on the women who broke down barriers. She shows how, in the hundred years since the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, women have continued to speak out so that all U. S. women can continue to have a voice in the future of their country.
By Ellen Carol Dubois
Explores the full scope of the movement to win the vote for women through portraits of its leaders and activists, including Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth, Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Paul, and Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
By Jean Fritz
This beginning chapter book relates the life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who didn’t live long enough to witness women getting the vote but whose voice still helped make it happen.
By Katherine Kittermna
Thinking Women tells, in nuanced and well-documented detail, the remarkable story of the Utah women and men who, ahead of their time, refused to acquiesce in outdated notions of justice and equality for women; and who undertook a nationally observed and complicated battle for the right to vote.
By Alix E. Harrow.
In New England in 1893, women are banding together to further the suffrage movement, hoping to find a measure of power at the ballot box. The Eastwood sisters, James, Agnes, and Beatrice, join the fight in New Salem, but bring something new to the fight: witchcraft. The women must learn how to set aside old prejudices between race and social standing if they are to win against the darkness gathering in their town.