This article is written by Allison Garrett
It is a historic month for women. March is Women’s History Month, and the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Relief Society is on March 17.
Andrea Radke-Moss, the associate dean of faculty development in the Department of History, said Women’s History Month is a good time to focus on Mormon women’s history.
“Mormon women have influenced U.S. history in significant ways,” Radke-Moss said. “They have been a part of significant movements in U.S. women’s history.”
Radke-Moss said LDS women were significantly involved in the suffrage movement.
Suffrage is the right of women to vote.
“Utah territory was one of the first places to grant women the elective franchise,” Radke-Moss said. “Utah became one of four states in America before 1900 that had equal votes for women. The other three were Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming.”
The right to vote was taken away in Utah to rid the territory of polygamy, but was restored in 1895 when Utah became a state, according to historytogo.utah.gov.
“Mormon women were friends with significant suffrage leaders, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton,” Radke-Moss said.
Radke-Moss said LDS women attended international meetings and visited the heads of state, including Victoria, the Queen of England, in order to encourage women’s rights to vote.
“Mormon women attended the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 as part of the World’s Congress of Women that occurred in May of 1893,” Radke-Moss said. “Young Women’s and Relief Society leaders were both represented at that event.”
Radke-Moss said that after women gained the right to vote in 1920, the women of the Church turned their attention to social work and welfare reform, which a lot of progressive Americans were participating in.
Radke-Moss said another movement Mormon women were involved in was the kindergarten movement, to bring public education to younger children.
“There are a lot of ways Mormon women were involved in larger things that were going on in America, and they helped things to get done in the state of Utah and other places,” Radke-Moss said.
Radke-Moss gave ideas for how students can get involved in Women’s History Month:
— Read and study about significant women in history.
— Interview or tell the stories of sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers.
— Find women’s history sites on Facebook, and share stories from a particular area of history that you are interested in.
— Celebrate women’s history with your Relief Society or ward.
Radke-Moss said one LDS woman who influenced her life is Emily Sophia Tanner Richards.
“She was the wife of Franklin S. Richards, one of the Church attorneys during the anti-polygamy legislation in the 1880s,” Radke-Moss said.
Radke-Moss said Emily Richards was interested in suffrage activism.
“She was catapulted to the head of Mormon women suffrage activism because she was interested and fairly well-spoken,” Radke-Moss said. “She was actually pretty shy and had a difficult time speaking in public, but she practiced that skill and learned it so she could become better at it.”
Radke-Moss said Emily Richards put her energy into a lot of different areas so she could help those that were disadvantaged and marginalized in society.
Brooklyn Monson, a senior studying nursing, said the early women pioneers have been influential to her.
“Although they went through unspeakable trials, they were still always serving others,” Monson said. “They were always faithful despite the hardships they had to face.”
Recently, a collection of discourses by Mormon women titled “At the Pulpit,” was released by Mormon Newsroom.
The book features discourses from women leaders in the Church over the last 185 years. The book has talks from Emma Smith and Lucy Mack Smith, all the way to the current Relief Society President, Linda K. Burton.
“The 54 discourses in this book show us a lot of the combined wisdom, through the decades of Church history, that comes from our strongest female voices, their great theological thinking, their insights,” said Kate Holbrook, author of “At the Pulpit” according to Mormon Newsroom. “It was so important for us to bring in international voices.”
Holbrook said it has been a thrill for her to discover the discourses and what they contain within them, and she is excited others will be able to have the same experience that she had while writing the book.
“These are Mormon women talking about their own understanding of faith and in their own voices,” Holbrook said, according to Mormon Newsroom. “Mormons are record keepers. We just have more womens’ voices than are often available in other traditions.”