I've read this claim on a reddit post1 that 19th century Mormon Utah is usually understood as barbaric and very sexist towards women, especially due to polygamy. However the poster argues that 19th century Mormonism was actually very feminist for its time.

My question is, was 19th Century and early 20th Century Utah as feminist as this post claims? What other evidence is there to support the claim? What evidence is there that doesn't support it?

I posted and formatted the arguments from the reddit post below.

Utah lead the nation on women's sufferage

In 1870 Utah was the second state or territory to grant women the right to vote.

Even though it was anti-polygamy groups that started the movement, leaders of the Church, including Brigham Young, actually encouraged it.

The federal government thought Polygamy was barbaric, so they passed Edmunds-Tucker antipolygamy act in 1887 to outlaw it. Apparently the government also viewed women's right to vote as barbaric, so Edmunds Tucker Act also ended women's suffrage in Utah as well as outlawing Polygamy.

That right to vote wasn't won back until 1895, and again, a majority of church leaders, both make and female, supported it.


Utah had the most liberal divorce laws, basically granting a divorce any women who wanted one, very different from rest of the US.

In the majority of the United States, women were almost seen as slaves to their husbands, and because of that, it was very difficult for women to obtain a divorce, even sometimes under circumstances of abuse. However, according to Wikipedia "Late-19th-century Utah also had the most liberal divorce laws in the United States at the time. The laws were advantageous to women: any woman who insisted on a divorce got one."


In fact, One of Brigham Young’s clerks explained: “As a rule, the Prest. [Brigham Young] never refuses a bill [of divorcement] on the application of a wife, and NEVER when she INSISTS on it.”


Utah was the first state to elect a women as a state senator.

In 1912 Utah was the first state to elect a women as state senator. They elected Martha Hughes Cannon (interesting enough, she even was running against her husband when she won).

Martha Cannon is a very interesting person. She was the fourth of six wives in a polygamous marriage. Yet she attended the University of Deseret, now called the University of Utah, receiving a Bachelors in Chemistry. From there she attended the University of Michigan and received her MD. She was a feminist and a very influencias womens rights pusher in Utah. That's only a small portion of her life. And the more I've researched, the more I've found that women in Utah were more independent and had more rights than the rest of the United States at that same time, even those involved in Polygamy.


I've found that 19th century Utah was a very feminist state compared to the rest of the United States.

1 https://www.reddit.com/r/exmormon/comments/6nvxj8/mormonisms_effect_on_womens_rights_in_utah/

  • 2
    Two of the four links used as citations in the quote in your post are to reputable, non-Wikipedia sites. That's a start as far as evidence is concerned. Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 12:49


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