Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Sarah Ann Taylor Howard, 1856-1933
By Catherine Sharpsteen, independent historian
In 1887, with the passage of the Edmunds-Tucker Act, the women of Utah Territory lost the right to vote they had possessed since 1870. Sarah Ann Taylor Howard was one of the many women who assumed leadership and worked at the grassroots level to have their enfranchisement restored.
Sarah Ann Taylor was born the eighth of nine siblings on a family farm near Mt. Airy, North Carolina on April 26, 1856; her parents were Thomas and Mary Ann Danley Taylor. The family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1869 and journeyed by steamer, transcontinental railroad and wagon to Payson, Utah, where they purchased a farm. Having attended school in North Carolina, Howard continued her studies in Utah when she could, while contributing to the family income by drying fruit, weaving carpets, and teaching. Much later, she would attend the University of Deseret when her oldest children were students there.
On December 27, 1877, at the age of 21, Sarah Ann married Samuel Shelton Howard and moved to the town of South Bountiful. The couple had seven children, one of whom died in infancy. In the course of her life-time, in addition to child rearing, housekeeping, and church work, Howard peddled her produce and eggs door-to-door, taught school in her home, and helped to manage and supply the family dairy company, a brick yard, and the Bountiful Livestock Company.
Church leaders in Utah saw the enfranchisement of women as a way of improving their national image, and in the early 1890's supported the establishment of Women's Suffrage Association (WSA) chapters in local communities around the territory with the goal of including voting equality in the future state constitution. One such chapter was started February 11, 1892 in South Bountiful. Howard was named president, and conducted thirteen meetings that year. She organized events, gave speeches and represented her locality at the 1893 statewide WSA convention.
The work of the WSA branches bore fruit on January 4, 1896, when Utah was admitted to the Union with “equal political rights” explicitly stated in its constitution.
Active in the Democratic Party, Sarah Ann was a delegate to the first Utah Democratic Convention and made the official nomination of Brigham H. Roberts for U.S. Congress. In 1900 she was elected county recorder, becoming the first woman in Davis County to hold public office.
In the first decade of the twentieth century, three of her grown sons and her husband were sent as missionaries to England, so Howard and her remaining children assumed the responsibility for the household and the family businesses. Devastated when her husband returned from England with a convert he would make his second wife, Howard forced him to move out. She continued her church work and management of the family businesses, served two religious missions (in England and San Francisco), and took several extended trips including one in Europe.
Howard died on October 20, 1933, of colon cancer. Remembered for hosting many community and extended family gatherings in her home, her descendants held great respect for her independence and willingness to stand up for women's suffrage.
Sarah Ann Taylor Howard 1856-1933
South Bountiful, Utah
Photo from private holdings of Karol Gerber Chase
Bohman, Lisa Bryner, “A Fresh Perspective: The Woman Suffrage Associations of Beaver and Farmington, Utah,” in Carol Madsen, ed., The Battle for the Ballot: Essays on Woman Suffrage in Utah 1870-1896, Utah State University Press 1997, Logan, Utah
Chase, Karol Gerber, “Sarah Ann Taylor Howard 1856-1933: A Remarkable Woman,” unpublished manuscript.
Chase, Karol Gerber, “'Wonderful to Me' Sarah Ann Taylor Howard 1856-1933 in Turley, Richard E. and Chapman, Brittany A. eds., Women of Faith in the Latter Days Volume Three 1846-1870. Deseret Books 2014, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Daughters of Utah Pioneers, South Davis Company, East of Antelope Island, Third Edition. Publishers Press, Salt Lake City, UT 1969.
“Davis County Suffrage Convention,” Davis Clipper, 9 November 1893, p. 2.
“Suffrage Sociable,” Davis Clipper, 21 March 1895, p. 3.
“W.S.A. Reports,” Woman's Exponent, 15 April 1892, p. 150