Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Hannah S. Lapish, 1834-1927

By Rose O'Neill, student, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA

Hannah Settle was born in Leeds, England in 1834, converted to the Mormon faith, and immigrated to Philadelphia in 1858. She travelled with her husband, Joseph Lapish, and two daughters, and after a short stay in Philadelphia, they moved to Virginia. Rising intersectional tensions, resulting in part from John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, led the family to accept an invitation from a fellow Mormon to head west. They joined a Mormon group at Philadelphia and traveled to Nebraska, where they joined Daniel Robinson's handcart company and on June 7, 1860 started on the journey to Utah. Hannah was a mother with a two year-old and a six month-old, travelling hundreds of miles on foot.

The journey was difficult and at several moments the group was on the brink of starvation. On one particular day they arrived at a trading post, and Hannah decided to take matters into her own hands, trading in her jewelry in exchange for 700 pounds of flour. This gave the group the nourishment necessary for the completion of their journey; without Hannah's intervention, many members of her handcart party would have likely died. During the journey Hannah also aided a woman in giving birth along the way. As she wrote later, "some woman in camp acted as midwife and I remained with her and she had a safe delivery and the child lived."

After the Handcart Brigade arrived in Utah, Hannah Lapish and her family settled on a farm in American Fork (about thirty minutes from Salt Lake City). They bought the land for a low price, due to the Homestead Act of 1862. Hannah was smart enough to buy a plot of land she suspected the railroad would eventually need, and thus they were able to sell it later for a high price. Once again Hannah had proved her ability to support her family during a time of need.

When Utah became a state in 1896, Ms. Lapish immediately joined the suffrage movement, and fought for women's' right to vote. Hannah, along with other suffragists such as Electa Bullock and Sarah A. Boyer, reminded the members of the Constitutional Convention that women had still not been granted the political privileges that men had, and yet were still held to the same political standards in regards to the law. The address was hopeful in nature, as it acknowledged that both political parties in Utah had declared that they were in favor of the suffrage movement. Hannah's effort to make sure that the politicians remembered the pledges they had made was rewarded when the delegates decided to include the right to vote for women in Utah's state Constitution.

Hannah's interest in suffrage continued after Utah women gained the vote. She served as treasurer of the Utah Council of Women, which was founded in 1899 and affiliated with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). In 1902 she attended the annual NAWSA convention held in Washington, D.C. When the 19th Amendment was finally ratified in August 1920, and the vote was extended to women in all 48 states, Hannah Lapish was anmmong the suffrage pioneers who addressed the celebration.

Hannah Lapish passed away in 1927. Ultimately, she was one of many hardworking, determined suffragists who aided in achieving the right to vote for women in Utah, 24 years before the rest of the country. She was a true pioneer, in both literal and figurative terms.


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