The envoys got lost in the desert in eastern Nevada, at night, on their way to Salt Lake City.
This was despite having hired a fellow who supposedly knew the route (this was the second and last time the Swedes hired a driver; from then on they relied on their own prowess.) At midnight, overdue at the ranch in Ibapah where they were supposed to rest and refuel, Sara told the driver to stop at a crossroads so she could look around for a signpost, and almost stepped on two “cowpunchers” rolled up in their blankets asleep. The sleepy cowpunchers were able to direct them to the ranch, though they had to retrace many weary miles and didn’t arrive until just before dawn. The ranchers lit fires and gave them hot coffee and food, but as Sara wrote Erskine they were chilled to the bone. “Our teeth chattered and we shook as with ague. We were half-tipsy from the wind’s continuous beat against our eyes, and we were dead from lack of sleep…” But they left the ranch after a few hours’ rest; they didn’t trust their driver in the night again and the ranch owner had advised them to take an 86-mile detour from the Lincoln Highway due to bad roads. Sara sat in the front seat next to the driver, keeping him awake, “calling directions and being general prodder and boss” until they reached Salt Lake City after midnight.
Despite its hardships, Sara remembered the beauty of the night trip through the desert, and the “great wonderful sense of infinite space” surrounding them. At top speeds of 15 mph they had plenty of time to enjoy it… Here’s a link to a little video my husband shot with a Go-Pro camera of Highway 50, which gives you a little better sense of the landscape than a single photo can convey.
In Salt Lake City Mabel Vernon had worked with local activists to plan the official ceremony, and it sounded pretty magical. A band led a cavalcade of cars from the Hotel Utah, where the envoys were staying, up to the steps of Utah’s brand new State Capitol, built on a hill above the city. As Sara described it “Behind it are the great black mountains. Before it is the whole world…The sun was sinking in golden fire into the lake…” Various public officials, including the Governor, the Salt Lake City mayor, and a US Representative were lined up on the steps to greet the envoys. Utah’s own Emmeline B. Wells, (whom Sara described as a “darling old lady, 88- a Mormon, a pioneer in suffrage, an intimate of Susan B. Anthony”) introduced the envoys to the men, and speeches commenced. “There was music and a deep, reverential sort of spirit abiding in the great crowd that swarmed the steps and Capitol grounds,” wrote Sara.
|Photo from envoys' event at the Capitol. From Salt Lake Herald, Oct. 5, 1915. I love how none of the important men present is mentioned...|
|Bust of Emmeline at the Capitol|
I got a tour of the state capitol from Jenn Gonnelly, Co-President of the Utah League of Women Voters and a state house regular, and it certainly is magnificent. There’s some nods to women’s history, like this bust of Emmeline B. Wells and a lovely statue of Martha Hughes Cannon, the first woman to be elected state senator in the United States.
|Emmylou Manwill, Visitor Services & |
Community Engagement Coordinator
at Utah State Capitol
Luckily, the Capitol employs Emmylou Manwill, who among other cool things leads women's history tours around the building and grounds. Jenn brought me over to meet Emmylou and I was delighted to find that one of the posters she uses to advertise her tours features Sara Bard Field.
Born and raised a Mormon, Jenn likes to say she “came out of the womb a feminist” and is no longer part of the church, but her background gives her an interesting perspective on Utah’s politics and history.
Over lunch at Salt Lake City’s historic Lamb's Grill
Congress wasn’t ready to give up, though. Despite strong opposition from national suffrage leaders, Congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker anti-polygamy act in 1887, which also stripped voting rights from Utah women.
Emily S. Richards, Margaret N. Caine, Zina D. H. Young (wife of Brigham Young), and Emmeline B. Wells, fought hard- and successfully- to include the following language in the new state’s constitution. “The rights of citizens of the State of Utah to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex. Both male and female citizens of this state shall enjoy equally all civil, political and religious rights and privileges." (Note they got the office holding language in there too, just to be sure...Pretty sure that was a smart thing to do, given how hard women have had to fight for other rights along the way.)