SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Nov. 21, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — A new exhibit of items that belonged to some of Utah’s prominent Latter-day Saint suffragists, along with historical documents associated with suffrage legislation, is now open to the public at the Church History Museum.
“This exhibit is really remarkable when you look at all the different artifacts they have,” said Jean B. Bingham, general president of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on the exhibit’s opening night, by way of a news release.
“They’re telling a compelling story about women working together for the good of communities and mankind.”
The exhibit celebrates the 150th anniversary of Utah women exercising the right to vote — the first women to do so in the United States. The display also illustrates the role Latter-day Saint women played in the state’s suffrage story.
“I’m really impressed,” said Deidre Henderson, a Utah state senator who attended Thursday’s event. “The subject of it is beautiful and I’m excited that we’re sharing this really important history with the people of the state and the visitors that come into our state.”
“The Relief Society of the Church is an organization for women that was founded in 1842, and its purpose was to help people in need,” said Tiffany Bowles, Church History Museum educator. “A lot of the women … were also very active in other social areas.”
Bowles explained that Latter-day Saint women used the Relief Society’s organization framework to disseminate and share ideas with each other as part of their effort to win the right to vote.
According to Bowles, who played a lead role in the exhibit’s creation, one Relief Society effort that helped drive the suffragist movement forward in Utah included a female Latter-day-Saint-authored periodical called The Women’s Exponent.
The Church group’s suffragist leaning eventually caught the attention of American women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony.
“(Miss Anthony) had quite a close relationship with the women in Utah,” said Bowles.
The Sisters for Suffrage exhibit features a copy of Susan B. Anthony’s biography, inscribed by her secretary, who described the Relief Society women as people “who were loyal and helpful to Miss Anthony to the end of her great work,” the news release said.
In addition to the personalized biography, other artifacts that make up the free exhibit include a draft of the 1870 Utah suffrage legislation document that granted women the right to vote, dresses that belonged to women from the era and a 45-star U.S. flag.
“It started with the idea of, ‘How can we tell this really important story?'” said Alan Johnson, director of the Church History Museum.
The suffrage-themed experience also provides visitors with interactive biography kiosks, quotes and pictures of the women who played a pioneering role in the movement.
The Sisters for Suffrage: How Utah Women Won the Vote exhibit can be experienced in person at the Church History Museum at 45 N. West Temple and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and online through January 2021.