Better Days 2020 site First Woman to Vote with Equal Suffrage by Rebekah Clark
Seraph Cedenia Young was born on November 6, 1846 to Cedenia Clark and Brigham Hamilton Young, in Winter Quarters, Nebraska. The Young family migrated to the Great Basin the next year along with other Mormon refugees, arriving in October 1847 and settling in Salt Lake City. Young, grandniece of Brigham Young was the oldest of nine children and eventually became a teacher at the model school at the University of Deseret. She was twenty-three years old and teaching at the University of Deseret at the time of her historic vote.
Utah's territorial legislature unanimously passed a law extending voting rights to women citizens in February 1870. Acting territorial governor Stephen A. Mann signed the bill into law on February 12, 1870 and Salt Lake City's municipal election was held just two days later. No historical records survive that record Young's feelings about the issue of woman suffrage, but newspapers reported that she was the first woman to cast her vote on February 14, 1870, which made her the first American woman to vote under a law that gave women the same voting rights as men. Young's simple action made history. (Although Wyoming Territory had extended voting rights to women citizens before Utah Territory did, Utah held two elections – the municipal election on February 14 and a territory-wide election on August 1 – before Wyoming women first cast ballots on September 6.) Young did not go on to become a leader in the women's rights movement, but Utah women remembered her even decades later as the first to vote.
In 1872, Young married Seth L. Ford in Salt Lake City. He was a printer from Buffalo, New York and a Union Army veteran who eventually became an invalid due to injuries sustained during the war. The couple had three children, two of whom survived to adulthood, and lived most of their married life in New York and Maryland. Young cared for Ford until his death in 1910, and was buried next to him in Arlington National Cemetery after her death in 1938.