The West View

The West View

The West View invited commentary from community members of color regarding the current protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s killing on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis.

We need real accountability!

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If unjust laws and policy allow an EMT worker to be shot in her own home, a jogger to be chased down by armed gunmen, or an officer to press his knee onto your neck until you can't breathe, then those laws and policies have got to be changed. We need some real accountability from our leaders and lawmakers, and actual reform that takes into account this country’s long history of treating black, brown, and poor people, as disposable.

– Ebay J. Hamilton, Glendale resident and D.J. at KRCL, 90.9 FM Community Radio

It Ain’t Over!

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Hernandez_2.jpgOur current era bombards us with information that can feel daunting to try and process, and the systems we live in do not encourage mindfulness. So, we have to be rigorous in our engagement with the information we may have access to. Some of the consequences of not being thoughtful is self-centered thinking and responses such as “what about us,” “what about this,” or “what if,” instead of being mindful of the actuality of “what is” and “what has been.”

What we hope is that we can better understand the importance and context of this moment. Our Black relatives are continuously hurting, and despite this, have enhanced all of our public lives and civil rights in their ongoing fight for justice, life, and liberation.

We feel it is important to learn and remember what has already been said and continues to be said by our Afro relatives in their work and legacy. We invite our friends, relatives, and other relations to STOP. LISTEN. THINK CRITICALLY. PROCESS. REFLECT. LEARN. CONNECT with what Black leaders, scholars, artists and community have been expressing, doing, and teaching for years.

– ‘Inoke Hafoka and Daniel Hernandez

Hafoka, Glendale native and son of Tongan immigrants, is a PhD candidate at UCLA in Education with a focus on race and ethnic studies. Hernandez, Rose Park native and urban diasporic Mayan (Wīnak) with several ancestries, currently lives in Tāmaki Makaurau (Aotearoa). He recently completed his PhD studies in Anthropology and is a lecturer at the University of Auckland.

Use your vote and your voice to bring about change!

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I am very saddened by the death of Mr. Floyd and the many others who have needlessly lost their lives under a regime of systemic racism. I understand the frustration and anger now simmering in our nation and state. I encourage people to use their voices in a way that is productive to bring about change. I want everyone, of all ages, to get involved in changing the pathway ahead for our state and our country. Please register to vote. Voting will make a difference.

I, along with my other colleagues of color, look forward to working towards policy change to address the important issues we face with race and equality. We want to be that listening ear for our constituents and the catalyst for change our state urgently needs.

– Rep. Sandra Hollins, a Fairpark resident, representing District 23 in the Utah State Legislature

Why We March

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Racism has been a plague affecting our nation for centuries, but sadly, we’re so accustomed to it that it has become our way of life. With the help of technology and social media, recent events have opened our eyes to a plague that is so deep, it will take centuries to overcome. However, we need to start and we need to start now.

This is the time for all Americans – Black, White, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and everyone – to stand up for justice.

This is why I co-organized a march and vigil from the U of U Institute of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to our State Capitol. While the gathering was meant to pray and remember those who have been so unjustly killed, it is also a time to act. As Latter-Day Saints, we believe that we are all children of God and right now our Heavenly Father’s Black children are being killed, marginalized, and silenced.

WE SAY NO TO THIS INJUSTICE!

– Madelaine Lamah, 25-year-old Salt Lake City resident, former Presidential Ambassador/intern under U of U President Ruth Watkins, and outgoing president of the African Student Association at the University of Utah.

I Hear Your Cry

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I find myself in tears throughout the day, grieving over the injustice, grieving over the hatred displayed against men and women of color. Watching the video of George Floyd’s murder and hearing him cry out for his Mama did something to my soul. I saw my son under that knee, struggling to have a basic human right, the ability to breathe. I couldn’t stay silent.

I went and protested with my children on May 30 in downtown SLC. I wanted to stand with them, kneel with them, raise my fist in solidarity with them, all the while knowing I have a liberty they may never see; watching my children cry as they shouted “Black lives Matter,” knowing in my heart that they don’t – not to some people. All my children want is equality, justice, and to not fear for their lives – especially not from the men and women who swore an oath to protect them.
As I cried out, “These are my children, their lives matter,” the officer in front of us began to cry. He could hear my voice, he could see our tears, and he could feel our pain. At that moment I knew he didn’t want to be seen as a threat, no more than my children want to be seen as one. At that one moment in time, he could identify with my 17-year-old daughter, who held a poster that read, “Does the color of my skin threaten you? Because your badge threatens me.”

I truly believe he understood what it felt like to be feared. He could see her little face with tears streaming down her cheeks. He could sense her anxiety as she watched more and more officers come out of the capitol. He saw her expression changing to panic as the crowd shouted “they are going to tear gas us,” and quickly changing as her cousin who stood beside her reassured her that they weren’t. He empathized with her in that moment as he did with me and when he could no longer separate humanity from duty he turned his head. Refusing to look at us any longer. I understood he had a job to do, and so did I.

My job is to use my voice, to speak up against injustice. To sign petitions that demand the arrest of all the officers involved. To get out and vote, so we can remove people in offices who don’t use their platform to create peace and unity or use their authority to punish those who dishonor the oath they took to serve and protect.

You may think I am speaking out of anger and hate. I tell you this. I speak from a place of love. There is no greater love on this earth than the love a mother has for her children. George cried out, “Mama, Mama”! When he did that, he cried out to every mother of a black son. I heard your cry, George. I hear you over and over again. I hear you in the voices of those who march, in the voices of those who chant, and in the voices of those who take a knee. All of them wanting the same thing. The ability to breathe freely.

– Laura Lucero, 48-year-old mother of Mexican/Italian heritage, is native of Glendale who raised her four bi-racial children there.

Equality and justice for all

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We have all been impacted emotionally by the tragic murder of George Floyd. In 2020 Mr. Floyd died because he was black. Salt Lake City is no exception from racial injustice. People of color here still experience systemic racism.
My heritage is Native American of the Akimel O'odham on my mother’s side and German on my father’s side. My children are mixed Native American, Mexican American, and African American. We’ve dealt with and witnessed systemic racism at school, work, and in the community. We have been racially profiled and harassed, particularly my oldest son who has the darkest skin color in our family.
I wholeheartedly believe there is a need for protests in our community and worldwide to give voice for the vulnerable and people of color in our communities. I do not condone destruction of property and violent acts of any kind in the name of justice.
I believe as a community we want equality. This will happen with transparency, addressing and recognizing individual biases, training to overcome the bias, and more. Systemic racism is complex, yet solutions are simple, if willing. I have hope our community will do what it takes to earn the trust of our vulnerable people and people of color for equality and justice for all.

– Juanita Washington, Poplar Grove resident, mother of six and grandmother of four

April 15 marked Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s 100th day in office. The West View was given the opportunity to submit 10 questions to her. We solicited questions from our readers throughout the West Side and Salt Lake City. Below are the questions you submitted and Mayor Mendenhall’s responses from April 27.

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Before we start the formal questions, let's start with something more personal. Kathryn  would like to know: What have you learned during your first 100 days as Mayor? Have there been any adjustments or changes that were more difficult than you expected?

If I were answering this question on March 1, the answer to your second question wouldn’t have been what it is today in terms of what we’re dealing with around the earthquakes and the pandemic, but my answer to your first question would be the same: Every day I am so impressed by how creative, resilient and caring this city is. When I ran for mayor, I signed up to take whatever comes and do everything I can to make the best of it, for our people. The circumstances we’re in are definitely difficult, but the character of our city is strong.

Question 1: Many residents of the West Side expressed confusion about the status of the Utah Inland Port development. Jaime asks: Can you share a status update on the port and explain the actions your administration has taken related to the port during your first 100 days?

One of the biggest issues with the inland port is the threat to our public and environmental health. We already know our west-side neighborhoods are disproportionately affected by poor air quality. Until this year’s legislative session, there was a gaping loophole that would have allowed almost any type of land use to be approved by a Utah Inland Port (UIP) appeals board. Fortunately, we were able to negotiate the closure of this threatening loophole with the passage of Rep. Francis Gibson’s HB 347. HB 347 also gave the City a portion of the tax increment so that current residents aren’t shouldering the entire burden of providing essential services to the IP area. And, of course, we are grateful for Sen. Luz Escamilla’s work on SB 112, which authorizes the UIP to establish a community enhancement program to address the impacts of development and inland port uses on adjacent communities and to use authority funds to support that program.

The City still plans to appeal the Utah Third District Court’s decision over the constitutionality of the Utah Inland Port Authority’s powers. We submitted an appeal to the Utah Supreme Court not only because Salt Lake City will be directly impacted by the decision, but because it sets a precedent that could impact every city and town in Utah, and it is our responsibility to get clarity from a higher court.

These are big strides forward, but there are still environmental assurances we need to address as development begins. The potential for future legislative sessions to undo assurances we have today is a driving force behind our work for something more certain that state statute. Our work to protect our city’s residents today, and for generations to come, will continue through legal and legislative approaches.

Question 2: The Jordan River is a defining feature of the West Side. Paul asks: Can you share how your administration plans to support this vital resource and how you are engaging with organizations like the Jordan River Commission?

I’m a new member of the Jordan River Commission and looking forward to those opportunities to collaborate. I love the Get in the River event and am looking forward to the completion of the Three Creeks Confluence project, with all of its amenities. The more we can connect residents from across the City with this incredible natural asset, the better. It’s such a gem, and West-East trail connections are a vital way to link the river with residents citywide. I am also interested in The Fisher Mansion, with its proximity to the river, as another great asset that has yet to be activated.

Question 3: The rail lines that bisect Salt Lake City result in significant delays for West Side residents. Devin asks: As your administration looks to future development patterns, is consideration being given to this issue?

There are a lot of challenges we face from the rail lines that bisect our city. Not only are pedestrians and commuters stalled at the crossings, our transit buses are as well. Solutions generally have to be funded entirely by the City. We’re definitely looking at federal grants and other funding for bridges to better connect our neighborhoods.  All of these efforts will be informed by the new citywide Transportation Master Plan that we will begin in the coming year.

There are also three remaining quiet zones that are a real quality of life issue for west-side residents. It’s important to me that we do all we can to prevent trains blaring their horns around the clock as they go by and through these residential neighborhoods. The improvements necessary to ‘quiet’ those crossings add up to more than $7 million. I will be looking for all funding opportunities, including bonding opportunities, to make these long-awaited improvements possible.

Question 4: The future of the West Side is likely denser than it is now. Erika asks: Many residents we asked expressed support for development that brings new amenities and neighbors. As our city grows, how do you envision maintaining the “Small Lake City” charm of our community and neighborhoods? 

Community-engaged development is the only way forward if we want to be certain that our collective growth is inclusive and equitable. We need a plan to protect our neighborhoods and businesses from problematic growth and change that doesn’t serve them. This plan and effort is now underway, with the Council recently approving funding for my gentrification mitigation plan.

Our residents and neighborhoods will be heavily involved in those efforts to identify, support and increase opportunities for historically underserved areas and communities, moving forward in lockstep with community members to strengthen existing investments of people in the area.

Question 5: Several residents asked about the future of the neighborhood cleanup program. Ryan asks: During your campaign, you pledged to restore the neighborhood cleanup program to its original state. Does your administration still intend to follow through with that?

Yes. I pledged to restore neighborhood cleanup in a way that does not contaminate our stormwater runoff, which was an unfortunate byproduct of our previous neighborhood cleanup approach. Moving forward, we plan to move to a format where people can leave bulky items curbside, but the City won’t accept any hazardous materials. We need residents to be very careful about not putting things like paint or chemicals at the curb, as those quickly wash down gutters and pollute wastewater.

I will be receiving some options from our departments on how to bring back a cleanup that responsibly guards against environmental harm. After working with our departments, we will bring a proposal to the City Council for their consideration and funding approval. Please stay tuned and participate when the public process happens!

Question 6: Residents expressed support and concern about the future of homeless services in the city. Heather asks: Can you share the actions your administration has taken during your first 100 days and where you expect to take action moving forward?

We’ve just gone through a big transition, opening three Homeless Resource Centers in the last year and shifting our model toward them with the state’s closure and demolition of the downtown shelter. The new HRCs are better helping to meet the acute needs of one of our city's vulnerable populations. We also work closely with the host neighborhoods to make sure they stay safe and that the neighbors have a chance to positively interact with the HRC operators and guests through the formation of neighborhood advisory councils.

In my first month in office we implemented some short-term strategies, including opening the Sugar House Temporary Shelter on January 23. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, our City staff who coordinate homeless services have been working even more closely with our County and service-provider partners. Providing temporary restrooms and sanitation locations, a two-year pilot program with Volunteers of America for enhanced street outreach and moving ahead with the City Council on expansion of Shared Housing zoning (formerly known as ‘SRO’ single room occupant) are some of our recent efforts. In the long term, we need to be strategic about homelessness prevention, increasing our capabilities to help people maintain their housing, divert people out of shelter into safe housing, and supporting the chronically homeless with the support and solutions they need — perhaps managed tiny-home communities.

In the next year we will work with stakeholders and partners on short-, medium-, and long-term plans for addressing the funding, governance, and accessibility of homelessness services throughout the region.

Question 7: Many families on the West Side of Salt Lake City have been harmed by the federal administration’s targeting of immigrant communities. Maria asks: Can you explain how your administration is supporting our immigrant neighbors?

Broadly, we're continuing one incredibly important policy in my administration, which is that the Salt Lake City Police Department will not enforce federal immigration policy or ask people about their immigration status.

But in the face of the pandemic we are going through, one of the key elements of my work is communicating with and working to support our vulnerable communities from the spread of this highly contagious disease. Data shows that not only is our city the hardest hit in the state, but that West Side areas within our city are being more heavily impacted than others. So for me, regular communication and a variety in communication mediums are key to ensuring that people have access to the information and resources they need to stay healthy and safe in this challenging time. I’m grateful to the many community partners who have been helping us know what’s working and what isn’t, then working with us to evolve better approaches to listen, share information, and support so many resilient communities.

Two very exciting recent developments are the funding of our gentrification mitigation plan and our citywide equity plan.

The gentrification mitigation plan will come from our work to study gentrification and use the findings to create policy that addresses the known risks of gentrification for different neighborhoods and identify best practices for addressing gentrification and displacement.

The equity plan will be our North Star for improving system inequities and ensuring that when we are making policy, programmatic, and financial decisions, we are taking into account how those decisions impact all people in our city.

Question 8: East-West transportation in the city has long been a concern for residents. Marty asks: Can you share your vision for the future of transportation in the city? Specifically, what plans does your administration have to implement the Complete Streets policy and make the city more pedestrian and bicycle friendly?

Great cities have great transportation networks with a focus on moving people, not just cars. As I mentioned, above, I’ve directed our Transportation Division to begin the work of a new Transportation Master Plan. It’s been over 20 years since our last master plan, and we’re due for a major update. There are new modes of transportation that were never contemplated a decade ago: e-bikes and scooters, ride-share like Lyft and Uber, even pedicabs that serve our downtown. The way we plan for and design our transportation network needs to be a multimodal network that gives us all safe options beyond single-occupant vehicles, from public transportation to walking to GreenBike. 

Complete Streets policy is in effect, and I intend for it to be reflected in the projects we build. We are working on better coordination between our departments to resolve competing policies, such as utility easements that impact placement of street trees. It is an ongoing process.

Question 9: West Side residents note the disparity in the maintenance of and quality of amenities at parks in our neighborhoods. Jessica asks: Can you share how your administration will promote the quality of parks and recreational facilities on the West Side?

The West Side is long overdue for a regional park amenity. There are more children per capita on Salt Lake City’s West Side than anywhere else in the City and it’s time for the open space offerings to reflect that. It’s important to me that we explore ways to not only build but maintain a high-caliber regional park. To this end, Salt Lake City is seeking opportunities to work with nonprofit organizations that would help us design, pass and implement legislation and ballot measures that reflect our community priorities and could create new public funds for parks and restoration. In the meantime, Salt Lake City has multiple projects in the works that will make significant improvements to the City’s Westside parks. Many of these capital projects will free up maintenance hours previously spent making repairs to aging infrastructures, allowing more focus to be spent on park beautification.

Additional information regarding many of these projects-in-process can be found on our web page at https://www.slc.gov/parks/public-lands-projects/.

Two new capital projects on the West Side — Jordan Park Event Grounds and Westside Trail Connections — will link contiguous park spaces along the Jordan River and add infrastructure for community events to create regional level amenities and attractions.

Jordan Park Event Grounds 1060 S 900 West This project includes design and construction for power pedestals to create an event space, improve pathways and enhance circulation in the park. This new infrastructure will create a large, self-contained event site for community events and programming, creating a more inviting and comfortable environment for all park visitors.  The new event grounds are at the center of five contiguous public spaces and will offer greater usability and highlight this unique area of SLC.  Design will begin in summer 2020 with construction in winter of 2020/21.

Westside Trail Connections and Amenities - SLC Public Lands, in coordination with the Glendale and Poplar Grove Community Councils, is designing trail improvements that will establish new connections between public parks and open spaces along the Jordan River between 1300 South and 800 South. This trail will connect seven parks and two trail corridors in the project area. The project area includes Jordan Park, 900 South River Park, International Peace Gardens, the Fife Wetland Preserve, Three Creeks Confluence Park, Modesto Park, Bend-in-the-River Park, Jordan River Parkway Trail and the 9Line Trail.

Question 10: Many long-term residents expressed guarded optimism about a future Olympic bid. Junior asks: With Salt Lake City bidding for a future Olympic Games, can you share whether your administration is taking steps to ensure that equity is at the core of future Olympic plans?

Last year I signed a Community Benefits Agreement in conjunction with Crossroads Urban Center, committing to doing whatever I can to ensure that housing produced for a future Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City will be repurposed for affordable housing post Games. A step like this would help us shape the changes that come to any Olympic host city, and to use those changes to benefit the housing needs of our population.

Another effort to help put equity front and center for the games were the two appointments I made to the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games Executive Committee. I asked Pastor France A. Davis and Westminster College President, Beth Dobkin, to represent our city's diverse needs and interests. I'm grateful they accepted and hope they are able to continue serving, should our efforts transition to an official bid and beyond!

Lastly, should our efforts be successful, and we get another Games in Salt Lake City, I have already begun advocating for the creation of an equity committee. I am dedicated to this early and consistent work to build equity as a shared priority of the committee.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration of these questions. Before we end, is there anything that you would like residents to know about your first 100 days?

Yes! We're still going to plant 1,000 trees throughout neighborhoods in our city's West Side this year. We’ve already put the first 500 in the ground, and our City's Urban Forestry Division is confident that we will hit our goal.

I'll also add that I want to hear from you. The Westside community is caring, innovative and invested in the future of our city. Those are the qualities we need to ensure Salt Lake City continues to thrive. We have a big challenge on our hands right now, and it is my goal as we get through this to find ways that our city cannot just go back to where it was, but be a better, more equitable space for all. I relish insights and ideas from the public. Please reach out if you have the time and interest.

By Hailey Leek

Complete the Census By Phone 1 pdfApril 1 is Census Day, the point in time when the Census Bureau is capturing what our population looks like in 2020. Census organizers are urging everyone living in the United States to complete the 2020 Census questionnaire today, if they haven’t done so already. For the first time in history, the census may be completed online or by phone, in addition to the traditional method of returning the paper questionnaire some households received in the mail.

The 2020 Census kicked off during a pandemic and an earthquake. As of today, only 42.6 percent of Salt Lake City residents have completed the census. The majority of these responses were done online. Even under the best of circumstances, census participation for historically marginalized communities has been low.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, community organizers had planned to be making the transition from online to offline outreach, and be meeting people where they’re at – grocery stores, public libraries, houses of worship, picking their kids up from school or neighborhood gatherings – to help them fill out the census.

Unfortunately the type of in-person outreach that would encourage and support census participation for low-income households, immigrants, seniors and people experiencing homelessness has either been postponed or canceled.

The Census Bureau, along with Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and other organizations have had to adjust their outreach efforts to follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities. As it stands, the safest way for people to respond to the 2020 census is either online, by phone or by mail.

These response options work for the majority of Salt Lake City residents. However, households who don’t speak English, or who have limited access to or knowledge of the internet or digital devices, have the potential of being excluded from the census. These households are further excluded from important public health updates, teleworking and online classrooms.

Since census data is used to determine how much funding our state receives from the federal government, the digital divide has the potential of costing Salt Lake City millions of dollars. Every community member not counted in the 2020 Census reflects a loss of $1,860 per person or $18,600 over the next 10 years. This funding is spent on our schools and health care, and in the future, could potentially enhance digital literacy and access.

An inclusive and accurate Census is even more important in the wake of COVID-19. Data collected from the census supports emergency response and preparedness by helping us understand our growing and aging population, and it can increase funding and access to health clinics.

Therefore, please complete the 2020 Census today! Ensure that your community is supported and has access to critical resources over the next decade. The challenges that are currently affecting the 2020 Census can be overcome through community support. Encourage family, friends and your neighborhood to either complete the census online at my2020census.gov, by mail, or by phone. For phone numbers and available languages visit 2020census.gov.

Salt Lake City’s census participation rate in 2010 was 68.9 percent , which means over a quarter of our city’s population didn’t participate. Let’s beat the odds and increase our participation rates from 2010. Track your community response rates here.

Reminders:

  • There is NO citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
  • If you’re able to complete the census online but don’t have your ID number, you can still participate! Go to gov, select the link under the login button that says, “If you do not have a Census ID, click here.”
  • Only one person from each household needs to fill out the census questionnaire, but should count every person living or staying in their household on April 1st, including babies and non-relatives.
  • Encourage participation now through August 14, 2020, when the census officially closes.

Stay safe and please get out the count.

For more information visit slc.gov/census or 2020census.gov.

Hailey Leek is the Census Coordinator for the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office.

By Katherine Kitterman

Seraph Young, a 23-year-old schoolteacher, made history when she cast her ballot in Salt Lake City’s municipal election on February 14, 1870. She became the first woman in the United States to vote under a women’s suffrage law.

The year 2020 marks three important anniversaries for women’s suffrage and voting rights: the 150th anniversary of Utah women’s first votes in 1870, the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which extended women’s suffrage across the country in 1920, and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed racially discriminatory voting laws in 1965.

These anniversaries offer an opportunity to honor the Utah women who worked for voting rights, and those who carried their legacy forward by working for social justice in other ways. Their stories inspire us to become more engaged participants in our own communities today.

Many Utahns are surprised to hear about Utah’s trailblazing suffrage story, but it’s true – women’s first votes with unrestricted suffrage rights happened right here in Salt Lake City! Wyoming Territory was actually the first to pass a women’s suffrage law, but Utah Territory followed just two months later. Due to the timing of elections, Utah women were the first to go to the polls, a full 50 years before women’s suffrage became national law.

As the first to vote, Utah women drew national attention. Suffragists hoped that positive results would help spread women’s suffrage elsewhere. Anti-polygamists hoped that women in Utah would use their political power to end the Mormon practice of polygamy. When it became clear that was not going to happen, many reformers started lobbying Congress to take away Utah women’s voting rights in order to put an end to polygamy.

Mormon women mounted a grassroots campaign to protect their voting rights (and polygamy) by starting a newspaper, The Woman’s Exponent, sending petitions to Congress, and forging relationships with national suffrage leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

But other Utah women argued that their right to vote should be taken away until polygamy ended. Eventually, Congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker Act in 1887 that revoked the voting rights of all women in Utah, regardless of their religion or marital status.

Utah suffragists organized the Utah Woman Suffrage Association (UWSA) to regain the vote, with chapters in 21 Utah counties and many more towns. In the UWSA, women (and some men) met to sing, pray, discuss current political issues, and voice their support for equal rights. They worked closely with Susan B. Anthony’s national suffrage organization.

Unlike the rest of the country, Utahns generally supported women’s voting rights. When Congress invited Utah to apply for statehood, both political parties declared their support for women’s equal suffrage in the new state.

Still, at the 1895 Utah Constitutional Convention some delegates argued that including women’s suffrage in the proposed constitution might jeopardize statehood. Suffragists across the territory sent in petitions, and the pro-suffrage argument eventually won.

After the proposed constitution was overwhelmingly approved by Utah’s male voters and accepted by Congress, Utah entered the Union as the third equal suffrage state on January 4, 1896.

In that year’s election, the first where women could vote and run for office, Utahns elected three women to the state legislature and eleven to county offices. Salt Lakers even elected Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon as a state senator over her husband on the opposing ticket!

Many Utah women continued to work for a federal suffrage amendment. They attended conventions, gathered petition signatures, and staged parades and rallies. Two women from Salt Lake City, Lovern Robertson and Minnie Quay, even joined the National Woman’s Party in picketing the White House. The Nineteenth Amendment made women’s suffrage national law on August 26, 1920.

Even then, many women were not allowed to cast ballots. Discriminatory citizenship laws made Native Americans and Asian immigrants ineligible for U.S. citizenship or voting rights, and state laws often kept people of color from the ballot box. Utah women like Alberta Henry, the Salt Lake NAACP president, continued to work for equal rights and opportunities for all people.

Other Utahns carried this legacy forward in a variety of ways. Incarnación Florez was a curandera (female healer) on Salt Lake’s west side who provided spiritual comfort and physical relief to hundreds of people without accepting payment.

Edith Melendez was a fearless leader with a soft heart who fought against police brutality and advocated for better housing, economic, and educational opportunities for Utah’s Latinx community.

This next year, let’s remember these women and resolve to make a difference, too.

 

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Illustrations by Brooke Smart. Courtesy of Better Days 2020

Better Days 2020 is a non-profit dedicated to Utah women’s history. To learn more about Utah women’s advocates and the history of Utah women’s voting rights, visit www.utahwomenshistory.org. Follow us on social media @betterdays2020 to stay in the loop for upcoming programs and events!