February 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of women voting in Utah. Neylan McBaine says she and Mandee Grant are already making celebration plans.
“Utah continued to be a really important part in the suffrage conversation all throughout the nineteenth century,” McBaine said. “We feel that by popularizing history and making the citizenry here familiar with this past and with these people, we open doors to have conversations about our future.”
The two women are cofounders for the campaign “Better Days 2020,” a project dedicated to raising awareness about women’s suffrage in Utah.
“In fact, a number of our leaders here in Utah participated with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the national conversation. It wasn’t just about getting Utah the vote,” McBaine continued. “Once they secured the vote for Utah, they moved on to the national conversation.
Women in Utah were first given voting rights in 1870. But the federal government revoked the rights seventeen years later in an effort to rid the territory of polygamy. When Utah became a state in 1896, women’s right to vote was restored. McBaine worries that nowadays, women are lacking representation in important Utah assemblies.
“All around the country, people are recognizing that you need a critical mass of women in order for decisions to truly represent the best conclusions and to truly represent the customers and the investors. And we’re not there yet in Utah,” she said.
The year 2020 also marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, when women nationally were given the right to vote.
“And that’s really one of the things we’re most interested in is using this as a really comfortable and inspiring way to look at where we are in Utah today and how we can best honor the legacy of the women who came before us and set the tone for what it means to be a Utah woman,” she continued.
A few of the campaign projects are going to take some time, like introducing the history of women’s suffrage into Utah public school curriculum and creating a traveling museum. That’s why the cofounders wanted to start fundraising and introducing the project now.
“We have 7 projects listed on our website under the campaign, and these are projects we feel fulfill our mission of popularizing this history in creative and communal ways,” McBaine said. “We want to encourage women to vote, we want to encourage women to run for office, we want to encourage women to participate in the corporate world.
“We want to encourage women to stick with their educations and pursue higher education and so to do all of that, we feel like this is a really inspiring way to address some of those conversations.”