Not all of Utah’s schools teach about women’s suffrage; Better Days 2020 wants to change that

Jen Christensen, project manager for Better Days 2020, presents on Utah women's history and suffrage at a Washington County Republican Women luncheon in St. George, Utah, June 6, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A nonprofit is seeking to make more of Utah’s K-12 students aware of the women’s suffrage movement and how Utah women were the first to vote in the U.S.

Teaching about women’s suffrage isn’t mandated by the Utah State Board of Education; however, individual districts can adopt the subject into their curriculum if they choose to do so. Because teaching about the movement or women’s history isn’t mandated by the state board, one organization chose to create its own curriculum in 2018.

Better Days 2020, a nonprofit that’s dedicated to popularizing Utah women’s history through creative techniques, created its own education website about the movement in hopes that it will reach school districts in the Beehive state.

Utah women’s history and the organization’s curriculum were discussed during a Washington County Republican Women luncheon Thursday in St. George by Jen Christensen, project manager for Better Days 2020.

“We’re using art and education and legislation and looking at different ways to make those stories interesting and appealing to a wider audience,” Christensen said during the luncheon.

A screenshot of the virtual trading card for Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon on the Better Days 2020 website. | Image courtesy of Better Days 2020, St. George News

The organization’s curriculum and educational website includes a timeline of historical events that took place during the women’s suffrage movement and virtual trading cards of key players involved in the movement. Among those key players are Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, a leader of the Utah Women’s Suffrage Association and the first female to serve as a state senator in the U.S., and Emmeline B. Wells, editor of the Woman’s Exponent.

Women’s suffrage is now included in the Utah Core Standards for social studies. However, parents, teachers and local school boards have control over their own district’s curriculum, so not all of Utah’s school districts teach about the state’s involvement with women’s suffrage. Washington County School District is among those that don’t have it as a required part of social studies curriculum.

Larene Cox, a member of the Washington County Republican Women and a school district board member, said during the luncheon that she’s working on changing that.

“This matters to us because knowing your history and knowing where you come from helps you understand and gives you courage and power,” Christensen said, adding that she believes what these women did in the 1870s and 1920s was remarkable.

In 2020, it will be the 150th anniversary of women first voting in Utah, as well as the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women’s suffrage throughout the U.S., and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which protects the voting rights of women and men of racial minorities.

Better Days 2020 also hosts teacher training sessions on the University of Utah’s campus, which will take place Monday through Friday this week and July 15-19.

To learn more about the women’s suffrage curriculum provided by Better Days 2020, visit utahwomenshistory.org.

Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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