Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Emma Beck Evans Coleman, 1840-1913
By Hallie Borstel, Independent historian
Emma Beck Evans was born on 12 January 1840 in Adams County, Illinois, to David Evans and Mary Beck. David was a bishop in the Church of Latter Day Saints. As a girl, Emma's family lived for a time in Nauvoo, Illinois, before they fled to Utah due to the growing religious persecution. The family left from Iowa in June 1850, heading a wagon train and ultimately settling at Lehi, Utah.
Emma's mother, Mary, was David's first wife. She died in 1841, when Emma was only a year old. Shortly after Mary's death, David married Barbara Ann Ewell. David, following Mormon religious practices, was a polygamist with many wives. He was also married to the widow Sarah (Thornton) Coleman, Clymenia Shaw, Edna Hinchliff, Rebecca Coleman, and Margaret Christine Holm. In all, Emma had forty-one siblings or half siblings.
On 20 November 1856 at Lehi, Utah, Emma married Prime Thornton Coleman, a cattleman. He was the son of Emma's father's third wife, Sarah Thornton, and her first husband, Prime Coleman. The couple headed further west, into Nevada, settling near Pioche. From Pioche they moved first to Alpine, Arizona, then to Thatcher, Arizona, where they lived for the remainder of their lives. Emma and Prime had four biological children--Sarah Francelle, Prime, Mary Annetta, and David Evans--as well as several adopted or foster children. Prime had a second wife, Elizabeth Eagles, whom he married on 30 November 1864 at Salt Lake City. Prime and Elizabeth had only one child, a son named Willard. Prime Coleman Sr. died in 1905.
Emma spent much of her later years devoted to the suffrage cause. In 1901 and 1902, she was the vice president of the Equal Rights Club. In 1911, she attended the state constitutional convention as a delegate from Graham County. She worked to get suffrage incorporated into the convention but these efforts did not succeed. On 8 March 1912 (which would later become International Women's Day, but did not yet have that designation), an article by Emma was published in the Graham Guardian. Of the suffrage movement, she wrote:
Should there be any opposed to this right at this late day, I would suggest at once that he, she, or they, get busy at once, convert yourselves and your neighbors, be in a position say, when we do get the ballot, "I told you so." Be in the lead of any great reform. Don't have to creep in at the tail end.
It was not until later that year that women were granted the right to vote in Arizona. In January 1913, Emma spoke at a celebration in Thatcher commemorating the suffrage victory. In April 1913, Emma registered to vote.
Besides the suffrage movement, Emma was also active with her local Sunday school, nursing work, and the stake Relief Committee. In 1908, she was nominated as a candidate for county school superintendent by the Socialist Party, but did not accept the nomination.
Emma Coleman died after an illness on 11 June 1913 in Thatcher, Arizona.
1860 U.S. Census
1870 U.S. Census
1880 U.S. Census
1900 U.S. Census
1910 U.S. Census
"About ten days ago..." Graham Guardian (Safford, Ariz.), 13 June 1913, p. 4.
Arizona, Death Records, 1887-1960.
Arizona, Voter Registrations, 1866-1955.
The Bishop David Evans Family Association, Bishop David Evans and his Family, (Provo, Ut.: J. Grant Stevenson, 1972).
E.B. Coleman, "Woman's Suffrage: The Right to Vote Applies Equally to Men and Women," Graham Guardian (Safford, Ariz.), 8 March 1912, 2.
"Emma B. Coleman," in Jo Conners, comp., Who's Who in Arizona, 1913, (Jo Conners, 1913), pp. 613-614.
"Emma B. Coleman Goes to Well-Earned Reward," Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Ut.), 17 June 1913, p. 8.
The Graham Guardian (Safford, Ariz.)
"Mary Annetta Coleman Pomeroy: My Life Story," in Sharon Niederman, ed., A Quilt of Words: Women's Diaries, Letters, & Original Accounts of Life in the Southwest, 1860-1960, (Boulder, Co.: Johnson Books, 1988), pp. 43-48.
Pioneer Immigrants to Utah Territory.
Susanna Eckstein and Katie Jones, "How Arizona women won the vote," Arizona PBS, 30 June 2020, https://azpbs.org/2020/07/how-arizona-women-won-the-vote/, accessed 6 October 2020.
Utah, Pioneer Index, 1850.
Western States Marriage Index, 1809-2016.