Nonprofit celebrates women’s suffrage, looks toward future

Better Days 2020 celebrates the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment by Utah with a historical time line of Utah women’s political activism. (Karina Andrew)

Better Days 2020 took Utah women back through history Friday night at its celebration commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Utah ratifying the 19th Amendment. The event highlighted progressive women of the past, honored contemporary trailblazers and encouraged Utahns to work for a more equal future.

The celebration featured storytellers who taught attendees about the lives of Utah women who fought for women’s rights, especially suffrage.

“It’s always a fun event to be around all these Utah women who are involved in activism and want to bring awareness to Utah women’s history,” said McKenzi Christensen, a BYU intern for Better Days 2020.

Spreading this awareness is the nonprofit’s primary goal. Better Days 2020 CEO Neylan McBaine explained that popularizing women’s history brings the legacy of leadership these woman possessed into the modern fight for equality.

“It is a lost story,” she said. “The story of women’s leadership in the nineteenth century and the women’s rights movement is not known by Utahns — it’s not taught in our schools, and it’s not known by the nation.”

She added that children who learn these women’s stories have a more positive perception of themselves and others.

Christensen also noted the importance of learning women’s history.

BYU student McKenzi Christensen is a historical research intern for Better Days 2020. (Sydnee Gonzalez)

“Wherever you’re living, it’s important to know the history of the people who have come before,” she said. “Women’s history has just been so overlooked and forgotten, especially Utah women. They’ve done so many cool things.”

Christensen said she enjoys seeing the parallels between Utah women from history and modern Utah women. Friday’s event honored these contemporary female leaders with booths featuring women in law, business and nonprofit organizations.

Better Days volunteer Erin Wynn said the celebration was the kickoff for several commemorative events taking place in 2020. Next year will mark the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment by the United States, as well as the 150th anniversary of the first woman to vote under equal suffrage laws — an event that took place in Salt Lake City.

For Better Days 2020, going beyond the 2020 events means working to incorporate women’s history in every state’s school curriculum.

“It’s an exercise in building our confidence as Utahns and telling a different narrative to the rest of the nation about our women here,” McBaine said. “Be proud of our legacy. There is a precedent here of women’s leadership and advocacy for women that can inspire us to be leaders again.”

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