Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball, 1818-1898
By Kaia Michaelis, Executive Director and Chief Curator, Brigham City Museum of Art & History.
Educator, civic and religious leader.
Sarah Melissa Granger was born on December 29, 1818, to Lydia Dibble and Oliver Granger. In 1883, her father moved the family to Kirtland, Ohio, with the rest of the LDS Church. While there, as a teenager, Sarah attended the School of the Prophets--a unique experience for a woman of the time. In 1840, Sarah married Hiram S. Kimball, and they lived in Nauvoo. In 1851, the family moved to Salt Lake City, where Sarah began serving as a teacher in the 14th Ward for a salary of $25/month. After being replaced by a male teacher, Sarah started her own private school, "convinced of the need of changed conditions for women engaged in work that came in competition with men." Hiram died in 1863, leaving Sarah a widow for three decades. Sarah died December 1, 1898.
Sarah helped start the first Female Relief Society in Nauvoo, and later served as Secretary to Eliza Roxy Snow when the latter was President of the group. Sarah was President of the Salt Lake City 15th Ward Relief Society for 40 years beginning in 1857. Speaking later, Sarah considered the creation of the Relief Society as the "foundation of the suffrage cause."
In her activities with the Relief Society, Sarah initiated efforts to build buildings, support the poor, and enrich the lives of women through learning, both spiritual and secular. She was in favor of dress reform, decrying tight lacing. She encouraged education in many areas and was a proponent of equality for women. Sarah was heavily involved with politics from at least the 1870s, serving on the territorial committee of the People's party, working for statehood, and, in 1891, serving as head of the Utah Woman Suffrage Association and delegate to the NAWSA. She led a women's committee concerning issue subsequent to the Edmunds Act. She was involved with Ladies' Retrenchment societies, both in leadership positions and speaking to others.
Sarah was a tireless advocate for women's suffrage. She was careful to back Church leadership in her support of suffrage. She was called the "Susan B. Anthony of Utah." Beyond her concern for voting rights, she was also concerned about the treatment of women more generally--in working conditions, in equality of treatment, education, and more. In a book on women in Utah, (1884), concluding the chapter on Sarah, the authors summarized her as "A statesman, a philanthropist, a missionary, in her very nature, she is nonetheless the noble mother and true, fond friend, to those who have known her longest and best." She did not take an overtly political role--she never ran for office. She used her position with the Church to influence politics from a different path, focusing her efforts on improving the lives of women, and improving their ability to advocate for themselves.
Crocheron, Augusta Joyce. Representative Women of Deseret, a Book of Biographical Sketches. Salt Lake City: J.C. Graham & Company (1884); Good Press, 2019. https://archive.org/details/representativewo00crocrich/page/n4/mode/2up
Croxall, Adah, "W.S.A. of Utah," Deseret Weekly, April 16, 1892. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=2690551
Derr, Jill Mulvay, "The Liberal Shall Be Blessed: Sarah M. Kimball," Utah Historical Quarterly 44, no. 3 (1973). https://issuu.com/utah10/docs/uhq_volume44_1976_number3
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 [LINK]