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Book of the Week — Memorial to the Honorable President, & the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress…

“We protest against the movement to deprive us of the elective franchise, which we have exercised for over fifteen years. What have we done that we should thus be treated as felons? Our only crime is that we have not voted as our persecutors dictate. We sustain our friends, not our enemies, at the polls. We declare that in Utah the ballot is free. It is entirely secret. No one can know how we vote unless we choose to reveal it. We are not compelled by any men, or society, or influence to vote contrary to our own free convictions. No woman living with a bigamist, polygamist, or person cohabiting with more than one woman, can now vote at any election in Utah. Why deprive those against whom nothing can be charged, even by implication, of a sacred right which has become their property?”

Memorial to the Honorable President, and the…
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Women’s Committee.
BX8643 W43 C472 1886

On Saturday, March 6, 1886, nearly two thousand women and a few men assembled in the Salt Lake Theatre to protest the Edmunds Act, a bill passed by the United States Congress four years earlier. The federal statute disenfranchised participants in plural marriage, made “unlawful cohabitation” a crime, and implemented fines and imprisonment for those involved in plural marriage. A new, even more restrictive bill, the Edmunds-Tucker Bill, proposed further sanctions, including the repeal of Utah women’s right to vote. Women had been granted suffrage in Utah by its territorial legislature in 1870.

The crowd formally adopted nine resolutions. The ninth appealed to women of the United States to “come to our help in resisting these encroachments upon our liberties and these outrages upon our peaceful homes…” An article in the January issue of the Woman’s Journal, the newspaper of the American Woman Suffrage Association, had also urged its readers to oppose the bill depriving “the women of Utah of that suffrage which is theirs by long-settled law and practice.”

After the rally, a committee was formed to write this “Memorial” to Congress. The piece included the resolutions adopted at the rally, with examples of particularly outrageous harassment. The Memorial was signed by twelve women prominent in the community. The first signature was that of Sarah M. Kimball (1881-1898). Kimball was an original organizer of the Relief Society in Nauvoo, Illinois. She believed that this organization could be crucial for the cause of women worldwide. “The sure foundations of the suffrage cause were deeply and permanently laid on the 17th of March, 1842,” she wrote of the day the Relief Society was founded. Kimball served as the president of the Utah Woman’s Suffrage Association and was a delegate to the national suffrage association.

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