Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) today spoke on the Senate floor to commemorate the leading role of Utahns in the fight for women’s suffrage. After Romney concluded his remarks, the Senate unanimously passed the resolution he introduced with Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) recognizing Utah’s leading role in the suffrage movement and celebrating the sesquicentennial of the first votes by women under an equal suffrage law on February 14, 1870.
I rise today to mark the 150th anniversary of the first ballot cast by a woman in the United States under an equal suffrage law.
I’m proud that this remarkable milestone occurred in my home state of Utah. The fight for the right to vote for all Americans, regardless of gender, race, or class, was achieved through efforts large and small, and through great sacrifice. Suffrage is the freedom to vote, to reaffirm the solemn duty of the citizen in a representative democracy.
When I vote, I remember the sacrifice of men and women in uniform. Those who have won and preserved freedom for us in the past and those who preserve freedom for us today. My vote is a recognition of that sacrifice. It is right and fitting that every American— male and female—has that same privilege.
Our great state of Utah was settled by pioneers like Brigham Young, who led his people to a new land in search of liberty and freedom from oppression. While the pioneers and settlers of Utah secured freedom of territory, religion, and thought, the voices of women were still not heard when it often mattered most—during the Democratic selection of their government leaders.
Seraph Young, like her granduncle Brigham Young before her, endeavored to chart a different course. In the early morning of February 14th, 1870, she became the first woman to vote in the United States of America. On that election day in Salt Lake City, twenty-four other women joined to serve young in casting their ballots.
Then in the next election, two thousand more women followed their lead and exercised their equal suffrage rights. The voices of the few set in motion a monumental shift in our nation’s history. Twenty-four years before the 19th Amendment to grant equal suffrage for women was ratified, Utah once again made history by electing the nation’s first female state senator, Martha Hughes Cannon. Cannon did not hesitate to pursue her own path.
After receiving her undergraduate degree in chemistry, she went on to earn degrees in oration, medicine, and pharmacy at a time when few women pursued advanced education. As a physician, church leader, suffragist, and mother, she defeated her own husband at the ballot box to become the first female state senator in United States history. Soon, we will honor the tremendous contributions Martha Hughes Cannon and all women suffragists have made as we welcome her as a new addition to Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol.
The symbols we choose to represent us in our state matter a great deal, and the bronze rendering of Cannon will serve as an enduring tribute to the efforts of all suffragists. To all the women who have led and who continue to lead by example, we thank you.