Following decades of leadership by a priesthood council, a member named Rulon Jeffs, his son Warren and their supporters fashioned a system of one-man rule.
The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage
After his father died in , Warren Jeffs introduced a regime of authoritarian control under which multiple wives were allocated to the most favored, older men, and TV and the internet were banned. While women had once been allowed to wear dresses with a diversity of colors, prints and flowers, the Jeffs imposed a uniform style with few permitted hues, setting them even further apart from a world they already shunned.
Still, the church could be generous: as long as you were a member of the faith, it provided a house to live in. In , Warren Jeffs was arrested after a year on the run over allegations of illegally arranging marriages between adult males and children. Five years later he was sentenced to life for child sexual assault; whether through faith or a fear of exile, many members have remained committed to him. His younger brother Lyle took over the sect — enforcing restrictions on the consumption of certain food items, such as milk and chocolate, as well as sex between spouses — but was himself arrested on welfare fraud charges in February In early , the US supreme court declined to hear a case that sought to decriminalize polygamy in Utah.
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When the members declined to follow rules or pay property taxes, believing the buildings were consecrated to their church, they were evicted. The response to the escalating poverty crisis has come from women inside the sect. Richter drove the Guardian around the dusty back streets on a tour of recently erected homeless camps.
Harsh winters and summer desert heat saw them shift gears. Froiseth went on to publish and edit an anti-polygamy newspaper for the society in , the Anti-Polygamy Standard , which lasted a short three years but had a great impact on the society and its national work.
Still, her whole-hearted work against the institution of polygamy often created conflict between her and other Utah suffragists. The Anti-Polygamy Society was determined to end polygamist control in Utah by promoting national efforts to enforce anti-polygamy legislation, and by working to elect officials to represent Utah who were not influenced by the Mormon church.
In , the society urged American women to write to their representatives to support Allen Campbell as the representative for Utah Territory over George Cannon, a polygamist. Neither representative was chosen and the congressional seat was not filled. However, in March of , the goals of the anti-polygamists were partially achieved with the passing of the Edmunds Act.
The act reinforced the principles of the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, made polygamy a felony under federal law, and initiated the arrest of many polygamist men. Women were viewed as victims of polygamy and were not charged at this time, but both polygamous men and women lost the right to vote, serve on a jury, or hold public office. Five years later, the Edmunds-Tucker Act disfranchised all Utah women, married or single.
However, Froiseth and several other prominent Utah women refused to work alongside Mormon suffragists until after the church officially ended the practice of polygamy in During the constitutional convention, a suffrage clause was included that enfranchised all female citizens of Utah.
In , Utah became the third suffrage state and 45th state in the United States of America. Gabi Price is a history student at the University of Utah. Having been surrounded by powerful, smart, and influential women her whole life, she appreciates the opportunity to learn about Utah women who made history and research those who have yet to be discovered.
Anti-polygamy petition to Congress from the women of Leland, Illinois, Document held in the National Archives. In February of , Utah territory granted Utah women citizens the right to vote. Many Americans hoped that Utah women would use their votes to help end the common Mormon practice of polygamy, or plural marriage, believing that it did not align with the goals of enfranchised women, who would surely vote in favor of anti-polygamy legislation.
Mormon legislators in Utah hoped that giving Utah women suffrage would prove that they were capable and competent voters, show the rest of the country that Utah women were happy with their situation, and decrease anti-polygamy sentiment in the nation. The society was comprised of women who met to write letters, petition, and speak on matters of legislation that would promote the end of polygamy.
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In , an event occurred that ignited the anti-polygamists of Utah to organize in denouncing the practice of plural marriage. After traveling from England to marry a man she had reconnected with while he was serving a LDS mission in her town, Caroline Owens learned her future husband was engaged to two other women. Just hours after she was wed, she fled and sought counsel from a few non-Mormon women in the area. There were no witnesses, no marriage records at the time, and there was no legal case that could be made due to the lack of evidence and the inability for a woman to legally testify in the Utah territory without the permission of her husband.
Independence Hall in Salt Lake City. Photo courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society. Rutherford B. Hayes, the United States Congress, and various clergy urging them to update and enforce anti-polygamy legislation.