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Davis Journal

Seraph Young – the first woman in American history to cast a vote

Aug 03, 2023 02:42PM ● By Braden Nelsen
Seraph Young - the first woman in American history to cast a vote. Courtesy Photo

Seraph Young - the first woman in American history to cast a vote. Courtesy Photo

UTAH—Since the 1840s, the Women’s Suffrage movement struggled to achieve for women the right to vote. Though the 19 Amendment to the U.S. Constitution did just that, it wouldn’t be on the books until nearly a century later. However, leaps and bounds were being made across the nation by outstanding women, and one in particular in Utah made history.

Though the Utah Territory was technically the second to extend voting rights to women, it was the home to the first woman in American history to vote. On Feb. 12, 1870, the territorial legislature unanimously passed the law extending voting rights to female citizens, which, in and of itself was groundbreaking, but just two days later, a young teacher named Seraph Young would walk through the doors of Council Hall, and into history.

Only 23 years old at the time, and teaching at the University of Deseret, Seraph became the first woman to vote in the United States, on Feb. 14, 1870, almost a full 50 years before the federal government would sign the 19 Amendment into law. 

While it remains unclear if Young was an activist in the Women’s Suffrage movement, it’s clear from her eagerness to cast her ballot that she was, at the very least, enthusiastic about the cause. While for many years her historic vote was obscured by history, in recent years, Seraph has finally been getting her due.

In 2007, a mural was commissioned and painted by David Koch and currently hangs in the U.S. Capitol Building, depicting the now famous vote, and in 2020, a statue created by local artists Kelsey Harrison and Jason Manning was installed at the relocated Council Hall where she cast her famous vote. She was also afforded great dignity when the misspelling of her name on her headstone in Arlington was finally corrected.

Americans as a whole owe a great debt to the bravery of Seraph Young, and women like her, who blazed trails of equity that have laid the foundation for amazing accomplishments for women everywhere. Though it’s likely Seraph herself might have just considered it a civic duty, in casting that ballot, she became a hero for years to come.