On Monday morning, in his remarks to the opening session of the Utah Senate, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser drew attention to the fact that in 2020 we will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of a woman first voting in Utah. Niederhauser pointed out this 1870 election was the first place a woman voted anywhere in the United States and territories in the modern era.
Quoting from Heber M. Wells, the first governor of Utah, Niederhauser confirmed the general feelings about the progressively engaged Utah women of the late 19th century: "Have women degenerated into low politicians, neglecting their homes and stifling the noblest emotions of womanhood? ... The plain facts are that in this State the influence of women in politics has been distinctly elevating. Experience has shown that women have voted their intelligent convictions. They understand the questions at issue and they vote conscientiously and fearlessly."
Later on Monday, almost 10,000 women of Utah fulfilled Wells' description from more than a hundred years before as they gathered at the state Capitol. They acted on a grand tradition of Utah women advocating for their broader sisterhood. "As [the women of Utah] have long exercised the right to think and act for themselves," claimed the first issue of the Woman's Exponent newspaper in 1872, "so they now claim the right to speak for themselves through the potent medium of the types." Over its 42-year-history, nearly a third of the Woman's Exponent editorials spoke directly to issues of the moment, including equal pay for men and women and social reforms around domestic safety for women. Women today exercise one of the most "potent mediums" of our democracy by gathering in person in an age of virtual isolation.