By Steven Heitter and Alexa Savelli
Undergraduates, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Margaret Zane Witcher Cherdron was an ardent suffragist and a politician from Utah, who played a key a role in founding and leading the National Woman’s Party. She was born in Springfield, Illinois on September 20, 1867 to Margaret D. Maxcy and Charles S. Zane, who later became Chief Supreme Court Justice for Utah. Her ancestral roots reach as far back as colonial America with her great, great grandfather, William Lloyd, who was a private in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Margaret Zane married her first husband, Dr. John Sherman Witcher, a physician in Salt Lake City, on August, 8, 1893. They remained married until he died unexpectedly after suffering a hemorrhage in his stomach on March 12, 1904. This left Margaret Zane a widow and the primary caretaker of their four-year-old daughter. Nine years later, on December 31, 1913, Margaret married Otto Phillip Cherdron. Otto would go on to adopt Margaret’s daughter, also named Margaret Zane. While Margaret took Cherdron’s last name, she kept both her maiden name and the name of her first husband. Newspapers and vital records frequently referred to her as Margaret Zane Witcher Cherdron.
Margaret’s political activism began in 1908 when she was elected to the position of City Clerk for Salt Lake City, Utah. She served as the city clerk through 1912. In 1912, Margaret ran for the position of state treasurer against Tigey Mattson, losing the election by less than thirty votes. Despite this setback, she continued to engage in politics. In January 1913, Margaret delivered Utah’s state vote to Washington D.C., as the first women elector in the Electoral College. During Margaret’s visit to Washington D.C. to cast the vote, she dined at the White House with President Taft.
In 1915, Margaret embarked on her career as a suffragist. She spoke at the Women Voters' Convention in San Francisco, California, sponsored by the Congressional Union for Women’s Suffrage. At this convention, Sara Bard Field agreed to drive cross-country to present President Wilson with a petition. Margaret made her own trek by train and upon arrival in Washington, she participated in a suffrage parade of a thousand women. At the conclusion of the parade, the procession stopped at the steps of the east front of the U.S. Capitol and presented an 18,333 page petition to members of the sixty-fourth congress. That same year, Margaret was elected chairwoman of the Woman’s Party in Utah.
In May, 1916, Margaret’s involvement with the woman’s suffrage movement intensified when she renounced her affiliation with the Republican Party. This action placed pressure on the Utah Republican Party to reform their platform to include woman’s suffrage. In June, 1916, she participated in a rally of twenty thousand suffragists in Chicago. The purpose of the rally was to pressure the Republican National Convention to adopt the Susan B. Anthony Amendment in their national platform. During the same period, Margaret took part in the launching of the National Woman’s Party, joining her niece Alice Henkle, a Chicago native.
In 1955, after a lifetime of political engagement and work with the suffragist movement, Margaret Zane Witcher Cherdron died from a cerebral embolism at age 87. Margaret was cremated at Holy Cross Hospital on May 26, 1955. Her remains were shipped to Oakridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, where she was interred with her family in the same cemetery where President Abraham Lincoln was buried.
Utah. Salt Lake City. 1910 U.S. Census, population schedule. Digital Images. Ancestry.com November 21, 2016. http://ancestry.com.
Utah. Salt Lake City. 1920 U.S. Census, population schedule. Digital Images. Ancestry.com November 23, 2016. http://ancestry.com.
“Coming Changes in Clerk’s Office.” The Salt Lake Tribune, December, 29, 1908, 12. www.newspapers.com.
Death Certificate for Margaret Zane Cherdron, 22 May 1955, State File No. 55181003, Utah State Board of Health. Ancestry.com.
Edmonston, Washington, D.C. [Mrs. Margaret Zane Cherdron, Utah, State Chairman for. 27, Woman's Party in Utah; Member National Executive Committee, Woman's Party]. [to 1915 Nov. 1913] Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mnwp000350/.(Accessed November 20, 2016.)
Hazel Whitaker, “Woman’s Party Plans to Hold First Convention.” Chicago Tribune, May 28, 1916, 3. www.newspapers.com.
Lineage Book : NSDAR : Volume 057 : 1906. “North America, Family Histories, 1500- 2000 [database on-line].” Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com.
Marriage License for John Sherman Witcher and Margaret Zane Witcher, August 08, 1893. Utah, County Marriages, 1887-1985. Salt Lake City, Utah. Certificate Number: 003659. Accessed through Ancestry.com.
Marriage License for Otto Phillip Cherdron and Margaret Zane Witcher Cherdron, December, 31, 1913. Utah, County Marriages, 1887-1937. Salt Lake City, Utah. FHL Film Number: 429306. Accessed through Ancestry.com.
“Mattson Wins in State Convention.” The Ogden Standard, September 06, 1912, 8. www.newspapers.com.
Obituary of John Sherman Witcher, The Intermountain Catholic, March, 12, 1904, 8. www.newspapers.com.
“Plan Big Suffrage Rally in Capital.” New York Times, December 05, 1915, 17. Proquest Historical Newspapers (97722260).
“Suffragists Pitch Tents Near Gates.” Oakland Tribune, September 12, 1915, 18. www.newspapers.com.
“Suffragists To Be Heard At Chicago.” Altoona Tribune, June 06, 1916, 8. www.newspapers.com.
“Woman Delivers Vote.” New York Times, January, 25, 1913, 1. Proquest Historical Newspapers (97428393).
“Woman Elector Brings Utah’s Vote.” The Washington Times, January, 24, 1913, 1. www.newspapers.com.
“Woman Elector Liked Taft.” Bennington Banner, February, 20, 1913, 1. www.newspapers.com.
“Young Girls Named to Head Suffragists.” The Washington Herald, December, 01, 1915, 11. www.newspapers.com.