CENTERVILLE – History books may make brief mention of the women’s movement and women’s suffrage, said Ellie Mitchell, but those efforts deserve more attention.
The retired clothing designer is visiting groups large and small to ensure no one forgets about the courageous work of women in the mid-1800s and early 1900s.
“They had no right to property,” Mitchell told the women gathered for a tea sponsored by Soroptimist International of Bountiful to celebrate International Women’s Day.
“They had no right to child custody ... they could not even inherit their mother’s jewelry. They were so long crushed ... They were denied education.”
Mitchell became interested in the history of the fight for women’s rights when she learned her great-great-grandmother, Maria E. Wilbur, had been involved in early efforts to improve the status of women.
Wilbur was one of the signers of a Declaration of Sentiments written at the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848.
In addition, Mitchell’s grandmother, Sarah Thompson Sutherland Rich, was a friend of Susan B. Anthony, a leader in the movement.
Patterned after the Declaration of Independence, the declaration states that the self-evident truths are, in fact, “that all men and women are created equal.”
It also states:
“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman.”
It lists as the first injury: “He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.”
The second wrong states: “He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.”
Utah women had the vote long before national suffrage, said Mitchell. It was taken away and then restored.
It was in 1870 that Utah first granted women’s suffrage. A constitutional amendment, the 19th, giving women the right to vote in the United States became effective in 1920.
“The job is not done yet,” said Mitchell. Utah figures show women get 69 cents for every dollar a man earns, she said.
Of even greater concern, women in many countries around the world lack even the most basic rights and protections.
Mitchell quoted a poem written by a woman in Afghanistan that spoke of having no rights, no voice, no choice and “no existence.”
“Even though we’ve come a long way, we have far to go,” said Esther Shutt, president of the Bountiful Soroptimists. The focus of the organization is to improve the lives of women and girls throughout the world.
“It’s important to remember the value of women,” she said. “We’re all in this together no matter what country we live in or no matter where we are in our lives.”