Date of Award

12-2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

Philip L. Barlow

Abstract

Compared to others of their era, Latter-day Saint women in Utah enjoyed a relative gender equality in voting and politics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Utah was one of the first states to have equal voting rights and it had the first female state senator in 1896. Religious doctrine once positively influenced gender equality in politics; but over a century since statehood, that same doctrine has led to the decline in Utah’s female representation due to its unchanging nature in a changing society.

This paper gives pertinent background information and explores the importance of Laursen’s political activity to give relevance to her archival collection. Even though it will not give a thorough narrative of the Utah woman’s political experience, Laursen’s involvement provides context for the current political climate for women in Utah compared with its past.

During the 1980s and 1990s, a there was a resurgence of women elected to state political offices. One woman who was politically active during this time was LaVon W. Laursen. She ran for office and served as the Vice-Chair and Chair of the Utah County Democratic Party. Her papers document her own political activity and that of other women in Utah. With evidentiary support from the Laursen collection, this Plan B Thesis - a curating project - accompanied by this paper, demonstrates that women’s evolving roles, the influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and, according to LaVon, the local (Utah County) social views are the reasons for the fluctuation in women’s political activity.

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