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Examining the Struggle for Suffrage & Utah Statehood through Political Cartoons

Lesson Overview

This lesson utilizes political cartoons to showcase the national public’s changing attitudes about most Utah women’s rights, from the late 1860s to 1920. Students will examine political cartoons across four time periods: 1) enfranchisement (1860s-70), 2) disfranchisement (1870s-1887), 3) post-polygamy, statehood and re-enfranchisement (1890-96), and 4) Utah’s place in the national suffrage movement (1897-1920). Students will use these cartoons to analyze how local and national events and attitudes influenced views on Utah women and suffrage.

Recommended Instructional Time: 60-90 minutes
"The Mormon Octopus Enslaving the Women of Utah" political cartoon

Historical Background for Educators

Key Utah State Standards Addressed

Learning Objectives

Guiding Questions

  • How do political cartoonists use persuasive tools to try to convince readers?
  • What roles did polygamy and suffrage play in Utah’s 
struggle for statehood?
  • How did national views about Utah women shift during this 
time period (particularly pre/post-statehood)? And why?
  • How did views about Utah suffragists compare with views 
about suffragists in other states?



(noun) Drawing a comparison between two unlike things to make a point. Cartoonists often compare a complex situation to a familiar situation.


(noun) Overdoing or emphasizing certain physical characteristics and/or attributes


(noun) An object that stands for itself and a larger concept or idea.


(verb) Identifying who someone is or what an object/place is for the reader through a label or caption.


(noun) The right to vote in a political election

During the women’s suffrage movement, women fought for and won the right to vote in political elections.


(n) the right to vote

The 19th Amendment granted the franchise to women.

(v) to give the right to vote

The 19th Amendment franchised women.




(noun) A marriage system in which a person is married to more than one person at a time.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints practiced polygamy, in which some husbands had more than one living wife.


(noun) To take away someone’s right to vote

The Edmunds-Tucker Act caused the disfranchisement of Utah women.


(noun) To give someone the right to vote

Emmeline B. Wells was a Utah leader involved in the enfranchisement of women.

Materials Needed

1. Images of current popular Internet memes
2. Historical Content and Vocabulary
3. Graphic Organizer for Political Cartoons
4. Political Cartoons:





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