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In 2020, Utah focused on a significant benchmark in voting rights: the celebration of 150 years of Utah women voting, the first in the modern nation to do so. Over the course of the celebration stories about women were uncovered, recovered, and publicized. Too often, women’s stories in history have been overlooked. This project seeks to recover some of those women’s voices. The Hole-in-the-Rock expedition was an arduous trek in 1879-80 across an uncharted, barren landscape in southeastern Utah by novice pioneers. History has focused primarily on the extraordinary feat building of the 290-mile road. The clever engineering allowed wagons to descend the steep 2000 feet drop to the Colorado River below. The expedition’s moniker “hole-in-the-rock” has limited the public’s view to the blasting and building part of the expedition. The contributions of the 100 women and girls who made the same journey and supported the road builders has been neglected. This research seeks to understand the contributions they made to expedition’s success and lift their voices from the footnotes of history. The women’s “keeping camp” with limited natural resources required these women to use the same tenacity the road builders used. This research required searching archives in the Church History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYU, USU, U of U, and The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers for journals and autobiographies, interviewing descendants, combing through already published histories. A survey conducted revealed a lack of understanding of the expedition and who these novice pioneers were as they carved a path across a wasteland. Women’s participation has been relegated to the back pages of this challenging trek. This is phase one of a longer study to recover these stories. Our research is paramount in creating a change in the way the story has been told.

Publication Date



Logan, UT


women's history, hole-in-the-rock, pioneers


English Language and Literature

Known and Unknown: Women's Voices of the Hole-In-the-Rock Expedition