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Better Days Reading Club – Week Two: Utah Women Had the Right to Vote Long Before Others, Then Had It Taken Away

March 31, 2020

Welcome to week two of the Better Days Reading Club! We hope you enjoyed the wonderful article from Dr. Tetrault last week, as well as our discussion guide. If you missed it, they’re linked the sources below. This week we’re getting into Utah’s voting history specifically, and it’s something you won’t want to miss.

This week for the Better Days Reading Club, we’re reading this article from the Washington Post by our own historical director, Katherine Kitterman. This article gives a wonderful overview of Utah’s suffrage history, and Kitterman does an especially careful job of showing how that history is impossible to separate from the story of polygamy. These elements are integral to the story of female suffrage and eventual disenfranchisement within the Utah territory. In her article, Kitterman also explains how women once again received the right to vote as they joined the union in 1896.

However, the most insightful part of this article may be the acknowledgment that suffrage did not expand evenly to everyone, nor did it expand permanently. Voting rights were taken away from women in Utah, and even after they regained those rights, Native Americans and some women of color were still denied citizenship and suffrage. As Kitterman observed, working for suffrage always has many setbacks, and progress has always been slow; yet people always keep working. Those are the people we will continue to talk about in the next few weeks.

Some questions you can consider:

  • What is the relationship between polygamy and Utah women’s voting rights?
  • How can we celebrate steps forward for suffrage while remembering and honoring those who were not included?
  • Why are there so many historical examples of rights being extended to a group of people and then later taken away?

Download a printable PDF here to have a hard copy of our summary and discussion questions. Make sure to comment here on our website, as well as on our Instagram page! We will be coming out with new content every Monday for the Better Days Reading Club, so we would love to get everyone involved. Have a great week!

Many thanks to Emma Summers for developing the materials for the Better Days Reading Club! Emma is an education student from St. Augustine, Florida. She loves to teach in big lecture halls just as much as she does groups of 2-3 students. Social studies is her passion, as well as chocolate chip cookies and Sunday naps. 

Check out last week’s content here.