Utah women helping forge an inclusive world

Women’s History Month is celebrated all throughout the month of March in commemoration of the critical role women have played in American history. International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th, and this year’s theme is a campaign to encourage collective commitment to a gender-equal world. It doesn’t require a globally acclaimed crusader to participate in the movement. Achieving change begins in our own schools, workplaces and communities, as we are each held responsible for the impact of our own actions. Meet some of the local trailblazers who have challenged stereotypes and battled discrimination in the name of equality in Utah and beyond the Beehive State. These women’s papers can be found in the Aileen H. Clyde 20th Century Women’s Legacy Archive.

Sonia Johnson

Born in 1936 in Malad City, Idaho, Sonia Johnson was raised a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). She began supporting the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1977 through the national nonprofit organization, Mormons for ERA. When the LDS church participated in political activities in opposition to the amendment, in Johnson’s eyes this was wrong, and she condemned the church’s actions. Her activism landed her in front of the Senate Constitutional Rights Committee in 1978, launching her into the national spotlight for the first time, but not the last. The following year, Johnson found herself excommunicated from the LDS Church after a published paper and a series of speeches landed her at an LDS Bishop’s Court. Despite Sonia’s separation from the faith, her advocacy for the ERA remained unwavering. She made appearances across the country, including on television talk shows and peaceful demonstrations, as the president of the Mormons for ERA group. Sonia’s book, From Housewife to Heretic, was published in 1981.

Learn more about local activist Sonia Johnson

Sonia Johnson audio-visual collection, 1976-1981

Sonia Johnson papers, 1958-1983

Sonia Johnson photographs collection 

21st century scientists

Women have made monumental contributions to science for centuries. From the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century, women have not only participated in STEM fields, but have also spearheaded revolutionary discoveries. A woman cured leprosy, while another discovered the structure of DNA. Women remain largely uncredited collaborators with their male counterparts despite increasing female participation in technological and scientific fields. Harsh inequalities, discrimination, and harassment are still realities in female recruitment, retainment, and advancement within male-dominated careers. The Women in STEM exhibit offers awareness of the detailed battles that are disproportionately impacting women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. The topics of this University of Utah-based oral history project include the exploration of academia, uncovering work-life balance, and a lack of available mentorship in these fields. Read and watch the interviews with these remarkable women of the U.

Reva Beck Bosone

When she became the state’s first woman judge and, later, the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives, Reva Beck Bosone re-defined the role of Utah women in politics and law. Following teaching at local northern Utah high schools, Bosone came to the University of Utah to earn a law degree in 1930 before she and her husband opened their own law firm. Bosone went door-to-door conducting her campaign for the state legislature seat while carrying her two-year-old daughter. Not only did she win the 1933 election, she received “the highest vote received by any candidate for any office in the country.” Bosone returned to privately practicing law in Salt Lake City when she was elected floor leader of the Democratic members, along with the first female member of the Sifting Committee. In these roles, she contributed to the passing of a minimum wage-and-hour law for women. Bosone later returned to the United States House of Representatives for Utah in 1948.

More archival material about judge and politician Bosone

Reva Beck Bosone papers, 1927-1977

Reva Beck Bosone Photograph Collection

Mormon women’s voices

From 2005–2013, women across North America, many of whom reside in Utah, engaged in the Mormon Women’s Voices project. A series of 84 interviews with Mormon women chronicling their personal records of the Utah-based religion and, consequently, the effects Mormonism has had on their lives, compose this oral history archive. American and Canadian women touch on feminist issues in their church, in addition to the origins of the faith, activities foundational to the LDS community, education, relationships, and professional lives. These wise women bring insightful interviews to show how their voices can break the bias.

Hear more from remarkable Utah women

Mormon Women’s Voices 

Woman’s Exponent Historic Publication

Aileen H. Clyde 20th Century Women’s Legacy Archive