Utah’s First Pro Sports Champ: The 1970-71 Utah Stars


On a cool night in Salt Lake City, Utah, Bill Howard, broadcaster for the Utah Stars, called what would be the last game of the 1970-71 ABA season. The Stars met up with the Kentucky Colonels in a win or go home matchup to determine the champion of the American Basketball Association. With 21 seconds remaining, Mike Butler made a driving layup to put the Stars ahead 129 to 118. The dull roar in downtown Salt Lake City turned into a frenzied cry of excitement as 13,000 fans arose from their seats in the Salt Palace arena. The noise grew louder with every passing second ticking off the clock. Kentucky’s Cincy Powell hit a 3-point shot with two seconds remaining to make the score 131-121 in favor of the Stars. It wasn’t much consolation as Stars center Zelmo Beaty raised his arms in triumph and excitement of the inbound play to come. Beaty received the ball and bedlam ensued as a mob of ecstatic Stars fans rushed the court to show appreciation for the team they had quickly come to love. In their first year in Salt Lake City, the Utah Stars had won the ABA championship. (“We’re No. 1”)

In the days following the historic ABA finals victory, the Stars received local media attention that rivaled most NBA franchises. When team owner Bill Daniels relocated the Stars from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City in June 1970, he claimed that the Utah Stars would become “the Green Bay Packers of professional basketball.” (Roblez) Some owners and media members were skeptical and believed the team would never be able to gain the fan support and media exposure needed in order to survive in the ever-shaky ABA. But Utah sports fans proved the critics wrong and became one of the most passionate and supportive fan bases in the entire league.

At a time when the ABA was fighting for fan support and television viewership with the more established NBA, Utah Stars fans exceeded expectations by continually filling the gem of Salt Lake City, the Salt Palace. An article in the May 28 edition of the Davis County Clipper recalled the ABA attendance record set during the Stars’ inaugural season in Salt Lake City. In the 42 regular season home games in the 1970-71 season, the Salt Palace welcomed in 262,342 fans, averaging just over 6,000 fans per game. In its first year, the franchise had broken the ABA attendance record set by the Carolina Cougars the previous season with 254,163 fans. Attendance grew as the regular season ended and the playoffs began. In the final seven playoff games played at the Salt Palace (three against the Indiana Pacers and four against the Kentucky Colonels), the Stars averaged 12,923 fans per game, 700 more people than the Salt Palace could seat.

Advertisement published in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Advertisement published in The Salt Lake Tribune. Image courtesy of the newspaper.

When the Stars were not playing at home, media outlets like the Salt Lake Tribune kept diehard fans (especially those in more rural areas of Utah) in the know during the 1971 playoff run. When the Stars defeated the Indiana Pacers in game seven of the Western Division Finals in Indianapolis, they returned home to the warmest welcome any team from Utah had ever seen. Salt Lake Tribune reporter Steve Rudman recalled the scene at the Salt Lake International Airport on April 29, 1971, as 3,000 raucous Stars fans welcomed home the newly crowned ABA Western Division Champions: “The arrival at the airport, with its attendant pomp and ceremony, was the culmination of a very hectic 24 hours, a time in which the Stars defeated Indiana, 108-101, partied half the night in celebration and then made the long trip back from Indianapolis after a couple of boring hours in Chicago. But it was all worth it for the Stars.” The celebration continued as more fans lined the streets of Salt Lake City to await the motorcade bringing the Stars back home to the Salt Palace.

A few days later, the Stars began their ABA championship series against the Kentucky Colonels of the Eastern division. On May 9, Rudman and the Salt Lake Tribune had to break the news to the Stars faithful that the team had dropped its second straight game to the Kentucky Colonels in Louisville after winning the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Salt Lake City. “The home court advantage may be some consolation,” he wrote, “but the Utah Stars really did want a split here. Instead they dropped both games and now it would appear Kentucky has the momentum going.”

Ten days after Stars fans were thrown into a pool of uncertainty after the game four loss to the Colonels, the Stars returned home for the final game of the best-of-seven series and defeated the Colonels 131-121 en route to the ABA Championship. While Stars fans jumped, yelled, hooted and hollered, local reporters were busy at work writing stories that had never been covered before in the state of Utah, the story of a professional sports championship.

In his article on May 21, 1971, Dan Pattison of the Deseret News proclaimed the win as the “Miracle on West Temple Street.” Pattison also gave Stars fans an inside look at the glory and pride felt by Stars players. Stars forward “Wondrous” Willie Wise said he wanted to wear his Utah Stars uniform “forever,” and center Zelmo “Big Z” Beaty proclaimed his appreciation to his teammates and the fans all over Utah. “I feel like I’m on top of the world,” he told Pattison. “It took eight years of playing for me to do something like this. I’ve played with some great guys before, but not like these guys. We just couldn’t let the fans down. It was a pleasure to play in Utah this season.”

Numerous sports reporters for the Salt Lake Tribune offered their congratulations to the team and had plenty to say about the historic win for the Stars and for the state of Utah. John Mooney, the renowned sports editor, wrote a short but sincere thank you to the Stars on the front page of the May 19, 1971, Salt Lake Tribune sports section. In the short letter, Mooney applauded the graciousness and humility of Stars coach Bill Sharman as well as team owner Bill Daniels and team president Vince Boryla, who would constantly thank media writers for their attention to the team and for their help in building a loyal fan base. “Every game when you walked by and said ‘Good luck,’ someone would say, ‘Whether we win or lose, thank you for everything you’ve done to help us this far,’” Mooney wrote. In the world of sports, where members of the media can often be blamed for added pressure on athletes or the demise of front office staff, the Stars showed true class by embracing their local sports writers as their partners in the business of success. Near the end of his letter, Mooney wrote, “The Stars won magnificently, but graciously. They had words of thanks for everyone, especially the fans who adopted a wandering ball club and took it to their hearts. The whole organization was major league, all the way.”

Also on the front page of the May 19, 1971, Salt Lake Tribune sports section was a stirring fan piece by reporter Dick Rosetta. All of Utah jumped on the Stars bandwagon, in the best sense of the word. Fans came from the red-rock cliffs of St. George and Kanab, from the arches and canyon lands of Moab and Price, from the farm country of Fillmore and Vernal and from the college towns of Ogden and Logan. People talked about the opportunity the Stars had to put Salt Lake City in a national spotlight. Stars fan Ron Henriksen told Rosetta over the noise inside the arena that night, “What difference does it make what time of year it is? Can you imagine what this has done for Utah over the nation? Man, anyone who could argue against basketball must be nuts.” That night fans didn’t even care about the crammed seating, lack of seating, uncomfortable heat or deafening noise, they were just glad to be there. Stars fan Dennis Dall proclaimed to Rosetta, “Ah, the sound doesn’t matter, the Stars do their own talking. They are the greatest thing that’s ever happened to this state.” That night, the Salt Palace was a portrait of pent-up people, ready to prove that Utah, yes, even Utah, could house a champion.

Over the next three seasons the strong Stars roster continued to dominate ABA competition, finishing all three years atop the Western Division standings. The Stars also made history by signing the first professional basketball player straight out of high school, a young and extremely talented Moses Malone, who went on to become an NBA champion, hall of famer and NBA top-50 all-time player. (Moses Malone Biography) But despite their talent, the Stars were unable to re-create the playoff magic that captivated Utahns in the Spring of 1971. The 1974-75 season was a disappointing one for the Stars and their fans, finishing with a record of 38-46, good enough for fourth in the Western Division standings. Monetary troubles began to plague new team owner James A. Collier in 1974, forcing him to sell the team to the Johnson brothers, Snellen and Lyle, before the 1975 season. The duo proved to be unfit to manage the small earnings of an ABA franchise and just like that, the Utah Stars disbanded after playing just 16 games in the 1975 ABA season. (Roblez)

Despite the disappointing end to the franchise, the Utah Stars were a catalyst for what is now a thriving sports culture in the state of Utah. Without the Stars, the notion of moving the NBA’s New Orleans Jazz to Salt Lake City would never have been considered. Other professional teams have come and gone: the Arena Football League’s Utah Blaze, the American Professional Soccer League’s Salt Lake Sting and even the WNBA’s Utah Starzz (a fitting homage to the state’s basketball heritage). None came close to having the same impact that the Utah Stars had on Salt Lake City.

Stars radio broadcaster Bill Howard once said, “The Stars boosters include the young, the elderly, the professional man, the blue collar worker, the household; all of whom dig the action and the emotion of professional basketball.” (“We’re No. 1”) Not only did this wide array of fans appreciate the Stars, but also the growing population of Utah’s sports reporters. The team was not only a professional opportunity for its players, but for those who covered them as well. The Stars gave news reporters in Salt Lake City the unique opportunity to cover a nationally recognized entity that Utah had had only a few times before. Anyone who wants to cover professional sports in a small market city need only look at the relationship between the Stars and their various news writers to truly understand the impact the team left on its followers.

Today, the most influential reminder of the Stars is former player Ron Boone, who remained a Salt Lake City resident even after his playing career with the Stars and the NBA’s Utah Jazz. Boone described the Stars 1971 ABA championship as “the greatest accomplishment” of his career and claims that Salt Lake City was where he spent his “best years” as a player. (Biga) Boone remains a fixture of the Utah Jazz broadcasting team, where he has been color commentating on television and radio since 1991. He is, perhaps, the greatest icon left from a team and an era that truly, in the mind of Utahns, has earned its heavenly place among the stars.

Talon Chappell is a senior at the University of Utah. He is majoring in mass communication with an emphasis in journalism.


“Stars Make It Big,” Davis County Clipper, May 28, 1971.

Dan Pattison, “Stars Gave Utah a Night to Remember,” Deseret News, May 19, 1971.

John Mooney, “Nice Guys Do Win Pennants And Stars Can Prove It,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 19, 1971, 1.

Dick Rosetta, “Th’ Stars’ Fans Know No Calender,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 19, 1971, 1.

Steve Rudman, “Colonels Clip Stars in Overtime, Even Series,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 9, 1971, 1.

Steve Rudman, “Stars Return to Wild Cheers,” The Salt Lake Tribune, April 30, 1971, 1.

1970-71 Utah Stars Roster and Stats,” Basketball-Reference.com.

ESPN, “Moses Malone Biography,” espn.go.com.

KSL Sports, “We’re No. 1: Highlights of the 1970-71 Season,” YouTube.

Leo Bigas, “Ron Boone, Still an Iron man After All These Years,” Leo Adam Biga’s Blog.

Matt Roblez, “Remember the ABA: Utah Stars,” Remember the ABA.com.

Willard Richards: A Man of Many Faces

by Emily R. Sylvester


The journey to the Salt Lake Valley was extensive for Mormon pioneers. Mormons were looked down upon in the East so Joseph Smith, the first Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made plans and encouraged the members of the Church to travel to the West.

Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, John Taylor, and Willard Richards were Church leaders who were in conflict with many and were prosecuted in Nauvoo, Illinois. Soon after being jailed, a mob came to Carthage Jail and killed Joseph and Hyrum. Taylor was severely injured and Richards managed to escape unharmed. Brigham Young, who became president of the Church after Joseph Smith was murdered, went into action and arranged a large group of Mormons to head West in 1846. (Layton)


Willard Richards, who was Brigham Young’s cousin, became a convert to the Church in 1836. Richards held many roles throughout his life. At points in time he served as secretary of the government of the State of Deseret, presided over the council of the Legislative assembly, worked as postmaster of the Great Salt Lake City, was involved with the Emigrating Fund Company, served as recorder and general historian of the Church, and was the founder of the Deseret News. (Richards) He also was an influential herbal medicine doctor and held high authority positions in the Church.

Willard Richards. Photo courtesy of the Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Soon after he converted to the Church, he traveled far to meet Joseph Smith. Once acquainted with Smith, Smith appointed Richards to be his private secretary. He became the Church historian and recorder in Nauvoo in 1841. (Searle) He worked very closely with Smith and kept all of his personal journals, even up to his death in Carthage Jail. “During his final hours in Carthage Jail, Joseph Smith apparently instructed Willard Richards to continue the history according to the plan and format that they had previously followed.” (Searle) Searle also noted that the history was written under the supervision of Brigham Young and that it seemed well to give Willard Richards nearly all the credit for the compilation and publication of the history of Joseph Smith. (Searle)

Willard served a mission in England from 1837-1841, and was ordained an Apostle by Brigham Young in 1840. (Quinn) Later, he left Nauvoo and traveled to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, and eventually traveled to the Salt Lake Valley with Brigham Young. (Quinn) Once he arrived to the Salt Lake Valley, he became very involved. After Joseph Smith’s death, Brigham Young became president of the Church, and Richards was then ordained by Brigham Young as 2nd counselor.

In a letter written by Richards to his sister, he expressed his feelings toward the religion saying, “I must tell you sister what it is to be a ‘Later [sic] Day Saint’ a ‘Mormon’ vulgarly. It is to believe & practice every known or revealed truth, in relation to every being & thing.” (Richards) He was a very dedicated member in his church, and continued to dedicate himself to several other commitments throughout his life, including being editor of the Deseret News, a Church-owned publication.

Just three years after several Mormons had settled in the Salt Lake Valley, Richards founded the Deseret News. The first issue was written by Richards on June 15, 1850. The Deseret News’ first issue included the prospectus and stated:

“We propose to publish a small weekly sheet, as large as our local circumstances will permit, to be called ‘Deseret News,’ designed originally to record the passing events of our State, and in conexion [sic], refer to the arts and sciences, embracing general education, medicine, law, divinity, domestic and political economy, and everything that may fall under our observation, which may tend to promote the best interest, welfare, pleasure and amusement of our fellow citizens.” (Richards, 1850)

In that first issue, he also discussed the importance of keeping copies and a record of the publication, and encouraged people to take care of their copies so that “their children’s children may read the doings of their fathers, which otherwise might have been forgotten; ages to come.” (Richards) In a dissertation written by Monte B. McLaws, it discusses that since editors of the Deseret News were mostly in the Church hierarchy, the paper did not need close supervision because Brigham Young felt comfortable trusting many of the decisions made by Richards, and other editors close to the Church. (McLaws) The Deseret News was powerful among Mormons in Utah, and practically replaced all other reading materials. (McLaws)

Searle states that, “As a boy, Richards eagerly sought education and demonstrated both an affinity and an aptitude for learning.” (Searle) Searle notes that he became influenced by Dr. Samuel Thomson’s Practice of Medicine to become an herbal doctor. A few Mormons were impressed by Dr. Thomson. He discovered a plant, lobelia, which became the foundation of his medical system. (Divett) Thomson said, “I had the curiosity to pick some of the pods and chew them; the taste and operation produced was so remarkable that I never forgot it. I afterwards used to induce other boys to chew it, merely by way of sport, to see them vomit.” (Divett) He described it as an “Emitic [sic] Herb.” (Divett) Richards was inspired by this and became a dentist and doctor of herbs. (Markers: Willard Richards) He also organized a group called the “Society of Health” but for a period of time, members of the Mormon Church were hesitant to be supportive of medical practitioners. (Divett)

Conclusion: In a journal entry written about a sketch of Willard Richards, it states, “It would be difficult to name any one of the original band of Utah pioneers who filled a more active life than the subject of this sketch. The duties he performed and the offices he held from the time he embraced Mormonism until the date of his death, were so numerous that it is a matter of wonderment how one man could have sustained them all.” Willard Richards fulfilled many roles in his life as a religious leader, and within his community. In an oration given by Richards, he said, “Men cannot fight truth, life or salvation without a medium of communication.” (Richards) He influenced news writing, medicine, and the Mormon religion.

Emily Sylvester is a senior at The University of Utah. She is majoring in mass communication.


Willard Richards and Thomas Bullock, History, 1838-1856, The Joseph Smith Papers.

Willard Richards, Deseret News, accessible at Utah Digital Newspapers.

Willard Richards, Matthew Frederick and Claire Wilcox Noall, Box 8, Folder 13, 1805-1979. Manuscripts Division, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Willard Richards, Matthew Frederick and Claire Wilcox Noall, Box 9, Folder 10, 1805-1979. Manuscripts Division, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Willard Richards, “Oration,” Millenial Star, November 15, 1850.

“Willard Richards Called First And Only Apostle Ever Ordained In England,” Deseret News, August 9, 1958, 20.

About Us,” Deseret News.

Robert T. Divett, “Medicine and the Mormons,” Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 51, no. 1 (January 1963): 1-15.

H. Dean Garrett, “History of Willard Richards,” OnlineUtah.com.

Stan Layton, “The Mormon Trail: A Photographic Exhibit,” Utah History to Go, State of Utah.

“Markers and Monuments Database: Willard Richards,” Utah State History, State of Utah.

“Markers and Monuments Database: This is the Place Monument,” Utah State History, State of Utah.

Monte McLaws, Spokesman for the Kingdom: Early Mormon Journalism and the Deseret News (Provo: Brigham Young University of Missouri, 1977).

Claire Noall, Intimate Disciple, A Portrait of Willard Richards (Salt Lake City: The University of Utah, 1957).

D. Michael Quinn, “They Served: The Richards Legacy in the Church,” Ensign (January 1980).

Howard C. Searle, “Willard Richards as a Historian,” BYU Studies 31, no. 2 (1991): 41-62.

Flood Watch 1983: Newspaper Coverage of the Flooding of Thistle and Salt Lake City


During the spring of 1983, Utah was awakening from one of the wettest winters on record. The previous year saw record precipitation and, in the latter part of 1982, summer rains continued through the fall. Rainfall eventually turned to winter snows and, in the process, saturated the ground beyond its capacity. What was left in the spring was an unusually large snowpack that was waiting to release its moisture down the mountain streams. In normal years the snowpack melts slowly due to air temperatures that gradually warm through late June. This particular season, however, saw a very rapid warm up that created an equally rapid snowmelt and high run-off that overwhelmed local streams, buried a town underwater, and turned streets into rivers.

Throughout this record water year, each new storm was adding to a narrative that would become the prominent news story from mid-April through mid-June 1983. This narrative was conveyed through the two local newspapers, The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and each story seemed to be a precursor to the subsequent stories that followed.

What would follow was a flood that had a lasting impact on Utah’s capital city and northern Utah, in general. This flooding was the result of heavy precipitation that accumulated during the 1981-82 water year, which began in October 1981, and culminated in September 1982. According to Linda Sillitoe in her article, “Floods,” it was a “water year that had broken all records; then September 1982 climaxed with ten times more moisture than normal.” Within this last month of the water year, saturated ground turned to mudslides that closed Big and Little Cottonwood canyons and flooded creeks to the point that the state’s Governor, Scott Matheson, declared a state of emergency, although federal aid was denied. (Sillitoe) September’s floods paled in comparison to what the following spring had to offer.

By spring, March again saw record rain and snowfall on top of soil that had reached its limits of absorbing water, and this record moisture continued on through April 1983. The soil limitations became evident on April 15, when a mountainside in Spanish Fork Canyon began to move and forced authorities to close the canyon. This mudslide was threatening U.S. Highway 6 and two railroad tracks and could potentially disrupt transportation and interstate commerce. The Salt Lake Tribune reported on Saturday, April 16, 1983, that during the previous afternoon, “the highway was measured at rising about a foot an hour. It is now about 15 feet higher than the original roadbed.”

In contrast to the reporting in The Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News took the opportunity to report on the impact the slide would have on the last run of the Rio Grande Zephyr, “the nation’s last privately owned, inter-city passenger railroad,” that was scheduled to run on April 24. (Fackrell) Inclusion of this bit of information brought a somewhat personal, or humanistic, approach to the paper’s reporting.

As the slide began to dam off the Spanish Fork River, rising waters were threatening the nearby town of Thistle. On April 17, 1983, the Deseret News stated that crews were giving up on “trying to keep the road or the railway open through Spanish Fork Canyon and will now concentrate on keeping residents of Thistle and nearby areas from being flooded.” The Tribune reported that within Thistle, 72 families were evacuated “as water backed up behind millions of tons of heaving, sliding mud.” (Clark)

By Tuesday, April 19, 1983, this rising water was now being called Lake Thistle. The township of Thistle was doomed. Already, the 22 homes that occupied the area were inundated by the lake, now as deep as 50 feet, and The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the town “is up to its rooftops in gray water. Thistle may be no more.” The Deseret News again added a human touch by reporting that “some of the residents are staying with friends and relatives and others in trailers set up in the Canyon Ward church house.” (Ward, Martz)

Federal aid finally came to the residents of Thistle on April 30, 1983, as President Ronald Reagan approved Utah’s request for disaster status for the Spanish Fork slide.  The Salt Lake Tribune reported on May 1 that the “emergency declaration could provide family financial relief grants and temporary housing assistance.”

In areas surrounding Thistle, similar slides were beginning to form, such as in nearby Payson Canyon. The Salt Lake Tribune quoted Utah County Sheriff’s Lt. Gary Clayton as saying that the slide was “a loaded gun up there just waiting to go off.” (Raine) This was a common sentiment felt across all of northern Utah as other streams and rivers were beginning to feel the strains of the spring runoff.  On May 1, 1983, an article in The Salt Lake Tribune prophesied on the floods that would threaten Salt Lake City. The article noted that the National Weather Service expected heavy rains that would cause “flash flooding and standing water in intersections and underpasses throughout the Wasatch Front.” The article also noted that the snowpack, which was only beginning to melt, contained 33 percent more water than the previous year and would strain the streams already swollen with run-off and steady rain. (Clark)

It would be nearly a full month after the Spanish Fork slide that the areas located in Salt Lake County felt the brunt of the melting snowpack. Spring storms were still falling on northern Utah throughout May, and by mid-month it was evident that disaster would soon strike Salt Lake City. On May 17, the result of these storms was beginning to show as “the rain and snow filled Red Butte and Emigration Creeks to overflowing and in some areas the bubbling water flowed into curbs and gutters.” (Sorenson) It was the same story in the surrounding suburbs of Salt Lake City, and the nearby towns located in Davis and Utah counties, as the groundwater began to push above ground. Eventually, the rains were reduced to isolated storms, but in their wake the makings of a “worst-case scenario” was brewing.

Sandbagging efforts created manmade rivers in Salt Lake City over Memorial Day weekend in 1983. Courtesy of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

By the end of May, the rains had given way to higher temperatures that soared into the 80s. (Sillitoe) As The Salt Lake Tribune put it, “The sins of Winter have been visited upon the Spring.” On May 26, crews began setting up dikes and stacking sandbags along the east-to-west thoroughfare of 1300 South to convert it into a river that would run from State Street westward to the Jordan River. Things then went from bad to worse during the Memorial Day weekend as temperatures rose into the 90s. (Sillitoe)

Water began flowing down the makeshift river on Friday, May 27, between dikes that were seven feet high. The waterway was also extended six blocks eastward to accommodate the overfilled reservoir in Liberty Park. The Deseret News noted that “traffic was snarled … as crews blocked major roads and turned them into rivers.” (Davidson) Around the Salt Lake Valley, the melting snowpack was overfilling the numerous creeks and streams and prompted Salt Lake’s mayor, Ted Wilson, to declare a state of emergency for the city. City and state officials also began pleading with the public to supply volunteers to help with the sandbagging efforts in and around Salt Lake.

The next day, May 28, in a downtown park known as Memory Grove, water surged over a pond and sent City Creek rushing down both Main Street and State Street. (Ure) It was this event that made the flooding front-page news in the Sunday paper as the water flow from the creek “set a record of 234 cubic feet per second; the old record was 156 feet per second.” ( Ling, Dowell, Pressley) Previously, the coverage of the flooding had been placed in the local sections of both papers, but this changed once the capital city was affected. That night, road crews and volunteers began the construction of a second river to divert City Creek southward down State Street.

To save the local businesses from water damage, volunteers worked on through the morning of Memorial Day rerouting the creek from Temple Square to 400 South in downtown Salt Lake City, turning the city into a modern Venice. Whether it was in the spirit of the holiday, or the fact that disaster had been averted, once the water began to flow an impromptu “street festival” broke out among the 4,000 or so volunteers who helped build the waterway. (Ward, Davidson)

City Creek flows down State Street as pedestrians cross makeshift bridges. Courtesy of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

This festive sentimentality was also evident as the Deseret News attempted to add a little tongue-and-cheek humor to the situation. In its Sunday edition, the paper laid out instructions on “how to turn a street into a canal,” and listed the four necessary ingredients: “thousands of tons of dirt, a multitude of volunteers, a few thousandths of an inch of plastic, and, of course, water.” (Warchol) Already, these rivers in the middle of the city were becoming something of a novelty.

In the few weeks to follow, wood bridges were constructed to allow for pedestrians and vehicles to cross the river and linked downtown with Interstate 15. Restaurants also capitalized on the novelty as office workers navigated around the waterways during their lunch hours. (Sillitoe) At times, an occasional fisherman could also be seen casting his lure into the brown waters from one of the bridges.

Eventually, the streets dried up and the numbers were tallied. On June 9, 1983, The Salt Lake Tribune relayed the figures calculated by the Utah Department of Transportation, which put the damage to roadways at around $63 million. The Great Salt Lake had also risen over 4.4 feet and was continuing to rise. This was five feet above what was called the “compromise level.” (Fehr)  In a controversial move, Gov. Norm Bangerter ordered giant pumps that were installed in 1987 to lift the water out of the lake and into the desert to evaporate, to the cost of $65 million. (Fidel)

Both The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News built upon this story as it evolved with each storm throughout the spring of 1983. Although television news covered the events, it was the newspapers that really captured the narrative with each article. Television was better able to show the devastation through aerial views, but only once the events took place. The newspapers were able to begin their coverage much earlier. Not only did they report on the events as they happened, they also helped to predict what was to become.  Within each weather forecast throughout the spring, the papers gave predictions for air temperatures as well as the effects that the ongoing precipitation would have on future flooding.

The newspapers also helped the public to be informed on flood areas around the state. Although the events in Thistle and Salt Lake City were the prominent news stories, there were several other areas that were affected by the flooding as well. By the end of May, updates were regularly printed that gave accounts of flooding in specific areas. The narrative that came out of each article, fully told the story of how “the desert did more than bloom like a rose. It became waterlogged.” (Fehr)

James Starbuck is a junior at The University of Utah.  He is majoring in mass communication with an emphasis in new media and is minoring in arts and technology.


Jerrie S. Fackrell, “Crews give on canyon roads, tracks,” Deseret News, April 16,  1983, B1.

Ann Shields, “Shifting Mud Clogging Spanish Fork Canyon,” The Salt Lake Tribune, April 16, 1983, B1.

Doug Clark, “Mountain Collapse Stops River, Destroys Town,” The Salt Lake Tribune, April 18, 1983, B1.

George Raine, “Wall of Debris Holding Water Back,” The Salt Lake Tribune, April 18, 1983, A1.

John Ward and Maxine Martz, “Slide turns mountain town into a lake,” Deseret News, April 18, 1983, A1.

Douglas L. Parker, “Reagan Approves Disaster Status for Slide,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 1, 1983, B1

Doug Clark, “Crews Monitor Streams Rains Threaten Floods,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 1, 1983, B2.

George A. Sorenson, “Storm Provides Flood Control Crews With Preview of Coming Disasters,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 17, 1983, B1.

Lee Davidson, “Crews Turn Streets Into Rivers,” Deseret News, May 27, 1983, B1.

“Warm Days Heat Up Utah Flood Battle,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 27, 1983, B1.

Glen Warchol, “How to turn a street into a canal,” Deseret News, May 29, 1983, A6.

Jon Ure, “Flooding Erupts From Memory Grove,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 29, 1983, A1.

Ben Ling, Thomas R. Dowell, and Roderick Pressley, “Sandbaggers Turn State Street Into Aqueduct,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 30, 1983, A1.

John Ward and Lee Davidson, “Storms threaten to aggravate flood nightmare,” Deseret News, May 30, 1983, A1.

Will Fehr, ed., Spirit of Survival: Utah Floods 1983, Indianapolis, IN: News & Feature Press, 1983.

Steve Fidel, “Chiefs from ’83 remember Salt Lake Floods and their impacts on conditions now,” Deseret News, April 20, 2011, http://bit.ly/higJCe

Linda Sillitoe, “Floods,” Utah History to Go, http://1.usa.gov/9GmOKI

The History of LGBT Publications in Salt Lake City (1975-2010)

Queering readers in the “reddest of the red states”


When writing about queer history in the United States, the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community has been a very underground community due to societal disapproval and ignorance. Utah is well known for being a conservative Republican state with a predominantly LDS population, so one wonders how a community that is so marginalized can survive in a conservative state such as Utah. As with all underprivileged groups, we learn that the way they find camaraderie and strength within a hostile environment is through newsletters, magazines, and newspapers geared toward advocating for their community. We also find that with this particular community, there has come not only a unique culture that is distinct from the contemporary heteronormative status quo that we all grew up with, but there has also developed this mass communication and media system that has built and sustained a community in a harsh environment. What I will be studying in this project is the history of queer print publications in Salt Lake City, including GayzetteOpen Door, Salt Lick, and Triangle Magazine. I will be studying not only how these newspapers were set up, but also the role they played in building the LGBT community in northern Utah.

Before discussing the history of these publications in Utah, it is important to first give a background as to how the LGBT revolution in America began. The LGBT rights movement, as we know it in the United States, was basically kicked off after the Stonewall Riots in 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York.

Stonewall is considered a legendary event among LGBT activists as being the catalyst as to how gay people and gay rights came out of the shadows and into people’s homes and everyday conversations. Martin Duberman in his book, Stonewall, documented how this small event at a bar in New York City revolutionized the gay community in the United States forever.  The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar in New York City during the 1960s.  However, gay bars were illegal at the time and the bar, along with other bars where homosexuals were known to socialize, was raided by the police quite frequently. (Duberman, 183) As a result, many of the patrons were put into paddy wagons for either dancing with a same-sex partner or wearing three or more clothing items that are intended for people of the opposite sex. (Duberman, 192–193)

However, on June 28, 1969, patrons finally got tired of police coming into the bar to arrest them, so the clientele, mostly drag queens and lesbians, revolted and fought back against the police. It was a riot that lasted three nights; however, mainstream magazine publications such as Newsweek and TIME did not cover the riots until October. (Cusac, 1)

According to Arthur Lipkin in his book, Understanding Homosexuality, Changing Schools, the late 1960s in the US were such a time of political unease and protest that it allowed the gay community to finally be given a voice. “1968 was a watershed year for protest and disruption in the United States, in that environment, gay liberation was a cause waiting to explode.” (Lipkin, 90)

Within six months after the riot in New York, two gay activist organizations were formed, the Gay Activists Alliance and the Gay Liberation Front, and three newspapers were established to promote rights for gays and lesbians. According to the Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History, within a few years, gay-rights organizations were founded across the U.S. and the world. On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride marches took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York to commemorate the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were organized in other cities. Today, Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world, mostly in the month of June in observance of the Stonewall riots.

There were, however, gay organizations prior to 1969. Organizations such as the Mattachine Society [1] and the Daughters of Bilitis [2] have been around since the 1950s. These groups were described as part of the homophile movement, which was a movement within the gay community that emphasized assimilation and presenting all gay identified people as “normal” citizens. They also were very underground and rarely engaged in activism. This was a strategy that was known as “the politics of respectability” within the gay community. (Gallo, 1–5, 11)

Now in the midst of all this consciousness-raising around the gay and lesbian community during the late 1960s and early 1970s, how does revolution like this work in a conservative state like Utah? We find that even within the heavily religious environment of Utah, gays and lesbians found a way to stay connected with one another, and support each other.  (I should clarify that I will be using gay and lesbian and LGBT interchangeably in this research, because bisexuals and transgender people were generally not included in the same category of gay and lesbian politics until around the 1980s and 1990s.)

The first LGBT newspaper of its kind that appeared in Utah was called the Gayzette and was founded by Babs DeLay and edited by DeLay and Gene Petten in 1975. The newspaper later evolved into the Salt Lick and then the Open Door, Triangle Magazine and into today’s incarnation, QSalt Lake. The publication contained local and national news centered on the needs of the gay and lesbian community, as well as some local advertisements and gay events.

The Gayzette was set up in a basic newsletter style with community announcements and some articles. There were no photos or advertisements, just stories and events in the community. The first issue was published on May 27, 1975, just one year after the Gay Student Union at the University of Utah was formed. It was Utah’s first gay organization and it is still in existence at the university to this day. It has since been renamed the Queer Student Union.

The printing for the newspaper was donated and done by the Feminist Women’s Health Center, a woman-controlled center that in their words was “dedicated to reclaiming our bodies from the medical profession.” (Gayzette, issue 1) The main article for the first issue of the newspaper focused on the formation of a Gay Community Service Center. The center was a small nonprofit dedicated to the gay community.  Proposed services for the center included a “Gayline,” which was a 24 – hour answering service manned by trained volunteers to aid in crisis intervention, alcohol and drug-related problems, emergency food and housing needs, employment, medical services, legal aid, and general referrals. There was also news of the elections of the committee members for the center. Most of the names of the people on the committee were men, which was reflective of the time period because during the 1970s, the gay rights movement was generally a male-based movement. Most lesbian-identified women were involved in the feminist movement at the time, rather than the gay rights movement.

According to Lee Walzer in her book, Gay Rights on Trial: A Handbook, lesbians had created their own political circles within feminism because they faced sexism within the broader gay rights movement. “Lesbian feminists were victims of sexism within the gay liberation movement, where women’s issues were deemed of lesser importance then the sexual liberation sought by gay men and the women themselves were often relegated to secondary, support roles.” (Walzer, 14) This is not to say that lesbians did not make great contributions to the gay rights movement, it was just not always a safe space for them to voice their concerns.

The main focus of the Gayzette was about educating the public about the myths of homosexuality and empowering gay individuals. “The gay person will be aided in defining his/her sexual orientation toward a positive self-concept that will confront the negative ideas transferred by society, family and the church.” (Gayzette, May 27,1975) The committee organized electronic media and a speaker’s bureau for organizations and groups who requested it. (The electronic media outlets they were using were not specified in the newspaper.)

What surprised me the most about reading the first issues of the newspaper was the strong emphasis on family. The first issue described dates for potlucks, social gatherings, movie nights, “keggers” and other activities. Being that many of the readers whom the newspaper was targeting were shunned from their biological families, friends, etc., a reader gets the feel for the sense of community that the people who were in charge of this newspaper were trying to forge. The newspaper almost gave a lonely and confused reader the impression that there was a loving family out there for them to utilize.

The second issue, which was published June 28, was a more developed newspaper with letters to the editor, a classified section, a list of events going on through the center, and stories of political legislation concerning the gay community in the United States. Two stories discussed the military ban on homosexuals; another was written just after California legalized all sexual acts between consensual adults. It was not until 2003 that sodomy laws were officially taken off the books in Utah with the US Supreme Court decision of Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized consensual sex between adult same-sex partners.

The latter incarnation, the Salt Lick, was formatted in a way where it resembled a genuine mainstream newspaper, with advertisements, articles and editorials, local and national news, as well as local community events. One interesting story that was actually printed in The Salt Lake Tribune in 1976 was a story of two women who applied for a marriage license. Technically, the two women were allowed to be granted a marriage license because according to the article, “Utah statute does not specifically prohibit marriage between members of the same sex.” This is interesting, because in 2004, voters in Utah passed an amendment to the state constitution that not only bans marriages between same-sex couples, but also any legal recognition or protections.

Another incarnation that appeared during the 1980s was  Triangle Magazine. It was set up in much the same way as the Salt Lick and the Gayzette, in that it contained both local and national news surrounding the gay and lesbian community. However, the tone of the newspaper was different than the newspapers during the 1970s; it had more serious coverage concerning AIDS. There were many advertisements about AIDS and condom use and articles on the gay community’s battles with the government concerning AIDS patients. Being that AIDS was discovered in the early 1980s and was prevalent in the gay community, especially among gay and bisexual men, it was an issue that really brought the community together in solidarity. “The impact of AIDS on the gay and lesbian community was profound,” writes Tina Fetner in How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism. “People from lesbian and gay communities formed organizations to educate the public on how to prevent the spread of AIDS, to distribute condoms for free, and to distribute bleach kits for intravenous drug users so that they could clean shared needles between partners. This quickly turned into an AIDS movement with multiple programs and organizations.”  (Fetner, 55)  Articles from the newspapers focused on ways to bring AIDS education to Utah and formation of organizations such as the Salt Lake AIDS Foundation, since renamed the Utah AIDS Foundation, which is still operating.

What I have gathered in this research is that despite Utah’s reputation of being a strong “red” state with conservative values, the LGBT community in Salt Lake City has thrived and been strong since the beginnings of the Gay Liberation Movement during the late 1960s. Due to the activism of these brave men and women, they have created a community and culture that is rich in a history that needs to be accounted for. Today, Salt Lake City has been documented as one of the 51 “gay-friendliest” cities in the United States, according to Gregory A. Kompes, author of 50 Fabulous Gay-friendly Places to Live. There are political and community-based organizations such as the Utah Pride Center, Equality Utah,  and the Utah AIDS Foundation. There is also an LGBT Resource Center at the University of Utah along with the Queer Student Union, as well as many bars, clubs, and social groups in the Salt Lake City area. The Utah Pride Festival which is hosted by the Utah Pride Center is the second-largest festival in Utah and it celebrates both the history and culture of the LGBT community.

Nick Critchlow graduated in August 2010 with undergraduate degrees in both mass communication and gender studies from The University of Utah. A strong radical queer feminist, he looks forward to using his education in helping create positive social change in the world.


Gayzette, May 27, 1975.

Triangle Magazine, January 1987.

Martin Duberman. Stonewall. New York: Dutton, 1993.

Marcia Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006.

Anne-Marie Cusac. “The Promise of Stonewall – Stonewall Riot, New York, New York, 1969.”

Arthur Lipkin. Understanding Homosexuality, Changing Schools. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1999.

Tina Fetner. How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.

Lee Walzer. Gay Rights on Trial: A Handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2002.

Marc Stein, ed. Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons/Thomson/Gale, 2004.

[1] The Mattachine Society was one of the earliest homophile organizations in the United States and was founded in 1950.  Membership primarily comprised white, middle-to-upper-class men and was formed to protect and improve the rights of homosexuals.

[2] The Daughters of Bilitis is the first lesbian rights organization in the United States. It was formed in San Francisco, California, in 1955. The group was conceived as a social alternative to lesbian bars, which were considered illegal and thus subject to raids and police harassment. It lasted for fourteen years and became a tool of education for lesbians, gay men, researchers, and mental health professionals.

A Day That Will Live in Utah Infamy: Local Media Coverage of Salt Lake City’s Destructive Tornado


August 11, 1999, was a significantly unique day in Utah history. It is on very rare occasions that events occur that have never before transpired in a state’s history. It is rarer still, that professionals of journalism are required to report on events that they never thought possible. On that fateful day, both of these rarities occurred in Salt Lake City. Shortly before 1 p.m., swollen, purple storm clouds billowed over the city’s skyscrapers, foretelling of the event to come. Soon after, the first tornado to ever be seen in downtown Salt Lake struck, creating a journalistic environment never before seen in Utah.

The twister, an F-2 on the Fujita Scale of tornado severity, initially touched down just southwest of central downtown. Over a period of ten minutes, it blew through the city’s business district, heading north towards the state capitol. Significant damage occurred, resulting in gas leaks, power outages, interrupted phone service, and roofs being blown off of multiple business buildings and homes. (Janofsky) Extensive damage was done to the Delta Center now Energy Solutions Arena, the home of the Utah Jazz. Five hundred trees were destroyed, and another 300 trees were extensively damaged. Significant losses were felt in the residential district known as the Avenues, with over 300 houses being damaged, and thirty homes being deemed uninhabitable by the responding emergency officials. (Brough)

The most poignant loss came in the form of human casualties. One man, Allen Crandy of Las Vegas, was killed and more than 100 people were injured — with fifteen to twenty serious injuries reported. Crandy’s death marked the first ever recorded tornado-caused fatality in state history. An annual trade show known as “Outdoor Retailers” was occurring the day of the disaster, coincidentally taking place directly in the path of the tornado. The sole loss of life and multiple accounts of injury occurred at the convention. (“Tornado Hits”)

Immediately following the tornado, the atmosphere in Salt Lake City was distinctive. The city had felt a kind of devastation that it had no previous experience with and thus had no understanding of how to accurately cope. According to an article published the following day by The New York Times, Utah had experienced 32 tornados in 25 years leading up to this incident. Comparatively, in the same time period, Oklahoma had experienced 1,326. Despite this unfamiliarity, Salt Lake City’s responses to the disaster were tremendously effective. Both in providing immediate aid to the afflicted, as well as journalistically, Salt Lake responded professionally and practiced excellent damage control. (Wharton)

As it relates specifically to the journalistic efforts of the city, three major trends can be seen in the coverage of the catastrophe. News coverage, particularly print media, employed breaking news stories, personal accounts from members of the community, and editorials to accurately capture the history of the event, and to help the healing process of the public. Drawing on the works of both The Salt Lake Tribune and The Deseret News, and utilizing a weeklong time frame following the incident, this pattern can be visualized. 

In the seven days following the destruction caused by the tornado, both of Salt Lake’s local newspapers ran numerous articles responding the disaster. In the immediate aftermath, from approximately August 11 to August 12, both publications ran articles of the breaking news variety.  Summaries of the damage that had been done, as well as strong focuses on the human casualties, covered the front pages of both publications.

“The twister hit hard and fast, tearing apart buildings, shutting down power and scattering debris for miles,” The Deseret News reported in an article printed the following day. In the same story, the paper displayed the scope of the incident by quoting President Clinton. “The burden of recovery will be heavy, but it is a burden that the people of Salt Lake City need not carry alone. As they begin the difficult process of mourning, healing and rebuilding, our nation stands steadfastly behind them,” he said. (Bryson, et al.) The article ran with an accompanying photo of the tornado, providing the reader with not only with a vivid description of the damage caused, but also with a culprit.

The Salt Lake Tribune echoed that style in its immediate coverage. They noted that the state estimated the tornado caused $150 million in damage, and spoke in specific detail of its destruction. One article reported, “Insurers in Utah so far have received 700 claims totaling $7 million for tornado damage under individual homeowner and automobile policies.” (Mitchell)

As the days following the tornado passed, the media evolution continued.  There was a remarkable softening of content, as the focus observably shifted from reports on the extent of the destruction to profiles of individuals who were affected by its consequences. The Avenues, the residential area that absorbed the most significant damaged, received strong coverage by The Deseret News. In an article published two days after the tornado, the experiences of multiple individuals were discussed at length, specifically of the family of Grace Wilson. “They heard a ferocious wind, then looked out a window of their 16th Avenue home and saw lightning,” noted reporter Donna Kemp. “A nearby power line exploded, so (the family) cowered near the couch. They watched in horror as a tree crashed through their living room. And then the ceiling turned to sky.” Despite recounting the damage incurred to the Wilson’s home, the article had a quality of hope and comfort. It stated that once the family was safe in the basement, they turned to their faith to provide comfort, huddling together and praying until the storm passed. (Kemp)

The same story also profiled LaWanna Chilelli, also an Avenues resident: “‘Oh, my God,’” Chilelli cried when she walked in her front door at 4 p.m. Wednesday. A whirling funnel cloud had ripped off the little house’s roof.” Again, after recounting the horror felt by the individual, the focus was brought back to a tone of hope. “I was going to take a vacation day  — I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad I wasn’t home. It’s a mess. But it’s just stuff. It’s just stuff, and I’ve got to remember that,” the article quoted Chilelli as saying.

The next day, August 13, The Deseret News ran a second Avenues article, enhancing their previous writing. The headline, “Humor, hope resonate in Avenues. Firewood jokes and unbroken china help the residents cope,” elucidated their goal and the direction of their evolving incident coverage.  Turning away from shock and awe tactics, the story was solely concerned with providing a face for the tragedy. “We’re going to rebuild bigger and better … with all sorts of goodies,” the article quoted an Avenues resident as saying. “I feel really lucky that (we’re) OK and that our cat came back.” (Kemp and Toomer-Cook)

The Salt Lake Tribune responded accordingly. In an article published on August 16, the Tribune looked to accomplish the same goal as The Deseret News, but utilized the American Red Cross as their vehicle of expression. More than 200 Red Cross volunteers had served some 20,000 meals and answered 300 of some 400 inquiries from family members trying to locate loved ones, the article said, drawing on the statistics as a symbol of compassion. “‘We have had more offers for help than we can handle,’ said Bob Dingman, a mental health counselor in the Red Cross.” The piece also focused on the rebuilding of the community environment, providing information regarding uprooted tree transplantation and readers with information on how to best help. (Ure)

The final installment of news coverage crafted for this scenario came in the form of columns, letters to the editor, and editorials. Both publications utilized this form of journalism to publish content that was not only personal, but personal in voice as well. The Salt Lake Tribune took this format especially to heart. An associate editor of the paper wrote a column on August 15 recounting the actions of the Tribune’s journalists: “What we provided was an all-encompassing, in-depth view of who, what, when, where, how and why,” he wrote. “We told stories about people directly involved, furnished information from the so-called experts, showed the damage through photographs …. I am proud of what was produced in The Tribune …. We tried our hardest to cover every angle. I believe we succeeded.” (McCarthey)

The Tribune continued this model as they published multiple articles submitted by readers, recounting in the first person their views on the incident. Also printed on August 15 was a piece submitted by Laurie J. Wilson, the department of communications chairwoman at BYU. “Some would call it an ‘ill wind’; I would label it fortunate,” she wrote. “It blew in compassion … service … gratitude. Here’s to the community that has been Salt Lake for the past few days. May it not take natural disaster to create it ever again.” (Wilson)

The devastating tornado that hit Salt Lake City on August 11, 1999, brought an atmosphere to the city that had never been seen before. With it came a journalistic responsibility that had never been experienced, yet was handled professionally and thoroughly. As can be seen through the writings of The Salt Lake Tribune and The Deseret News, this incident was covered in the form of breaking news, human interest pieces, and letters to the editor/editorials.

James Lowe is a senior in the College of Humanities at The University of Utah. He is a journalist for the Daily Utah Chronicle, and works as an intern for Simmons Media Group. He enjoys being active outdoors and spending time with his loved ones.


Amy Joi Bryson, Jennifer Dobner, and Lucinda Dillon, “Twister’s terrible toll 1 killed, 81 injured, 300 homes damaged,” The Deseret News, August 12, 1999.

Michael Janofsky, “Tornado Damages Downtown Salt Lake City; 1 Is Killed and Many Are Hurt,” The New York Times, August 12, 1999.

Donna M. Kemp, “Avenues residents pick up the pieces,” The Deseret News, August 12, 1999.

Tom McCarthey, “Letter From The Editor,” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 15, 1999.

Lesley Mitchell, “Tornado Claims Total $7M,” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 20, 1999.

Jennifer Toomer-Cook and Donna Kemp, “Humor, hope resonate in Avenues. Firewook Jokes and unbroken china help the residents cope,” The Deseret News, August 13, 1999.

Jon Ure, “Red Cross Workers Relieved Victims Are Few,” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 16, 1999.

Tom Wharton, The Salt Lake Tribune, August 9, 2009.

Laurie J. Wilson, “Twister Blew In Compassion and Service,” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 15, 1999.

Clayton Brough, et al. “Utah’s Tornadoes and Waterspouts, 1847-Present.” National Weather Service Salt Lake City.

Tornado Hits Salt Lake City.” University of Nebraska-Lincoln High Plains Climate Center.

Emmeline Wells: Suffragette


Emmeline Wells was known in Utah for her leading role in politics and women’s suffrage. She converted to the Latter-day Saints religion in 1842 shortly after her mother did. She then followed the church migration from Illinois and ended up in Utah. (Madson, 1) She first started actively supporting women’s rights when the Utah Territorial Legislature gave women the right to vote in 1870. She even tried to become Salt Lake City’s treasurer; however, women were not yet allowed to be in office. (The West)

Wells was not only a vigorous activist, but she was also a journalist. She began by contributing her writings to Woman’s Exponent. The Exponent was an LDS newspaper that was distributed semi-monthly and it supported polygamous marriages and woman’s suffrage. The paper’s professional slogan was, “The Rights of the Women of Zion, and the Rights of the Women of All Nations.” Women would use this newspaper as a medium for discussion to motivate women to become active in the fight for woman’s suffrage.

On March 1, 1881, Wells showed her support to women by writing, “History tells us very little about women, judging from its pages one would suppose their lives were insignificant and yet their opinions worthless … yet the future will deal more generally with womankind and the historians of the present age will find it very embarrassing to ignore women in the records of the nineteenth century.” (Wells, 148)

After writing for the Exponent for many years, she became Louisa Greene’s successor as the editor of the Woman’s Exponent in 1877.  When it was announced that she would assume the editorial duties she told the daughter of Brigham Young, Susa Young Gates, “Believe me I am ever ready to add in all my power in literary work for the advancement and culture of our people.” (Madson, 34)

On January 12, 1887, when the Edmunds-Tucker Act was passed, Wells wrote in her diary that she wished the House of Representatives never had let it pass. She wrote, “It is contrary to all justice and rights.” (Wells, January 12, 1887) The following day, she wrote in her diary about attending a meeting that the town was holding to talk about the new law. She wrote that there was no excitement surrounding the law and that it was not only unfair to women, but also to men. (Wells, January 13, 1887)

Wells used the paper to influence women to speak up about how they deserved the same rights as men. The Edmunds-Tucker Act repealed the right of plural marriages and women’s right to vote in Utah. The bill was enacted because George F. Edmunds and John R. Tucker thought the vote of women would make the political power of the church stronger. (White) When Wells found out about the bill she believed that it was a great step to take in the opposite direction from their former position. (Wells, January 16, 1887)

On January 15, 1887, three days after the bill was passed, one editorial was printed in the Exponent saying, “This outrageous bill derives from two leading men in Congress of the United States and it greatly discredits that they should thus degrade the talents given to them and subverts the aims and intentions of all law making and good government.” (Unknown, 124) The author goes on to say that not only was the bill anti-Mormon, but also anti-American. The unidentified writer also said the repeal makes Mormons “one and all, little better than slaves.” Women suffragists tried to get President Cleveland to revoke the Edmunds-Tucker Act; however, nothing happened quickly. In the same editorial the writer described Edmunds as “proud, rich, cold as an icicle, aristocratic, and arrogant.” She also labeled Tucker as an illiberal, bigoted man.

As time went on Wells continued to tell women to show their independence and fearlessness until suffragettes could convince President Cleveland to veto the “ant-Mormon” bill. (Wells, 139) The Exponent talked about how it was unfair that the right was taken away without due process. Women hoped that Cleveland would see that even if people denounced polygamy that did not mean it was OK to take away human rights. (Wells, 139)

Emmeline Wells paved the way for independent women all over the state and the women of today are still taking initiative. Not long after the 19th amendment was ratified a Utah woman, Jeannette A. Hyde, formed the Women’s Legislative Committee of Utah. It was later renamed the Women’s State Legislative Council of Utah (WSLC) and is still politically active after 90 years. (Stone)

Jenna Levetan is a junior at The University of Utah. She is majoring in mass communication with an emphasis in journalism.


Emmeline Wells Diaries, January 12-16, 1887. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriot Library, The University of Utah.

Carol Madson. An Advocate for Women: The  Public Life of Emmeline B. Wells, 1870-1920. Provo: Brigham Young University, 2006.

Unknown, “Comments,” The Woman’s Exponent, January 15, 1887, 124.

Emmeline Wells, “Comments,” The Woman’s Exponent, February 1, 1887, 132.

Emmeline Wells, “Self- Made Woman,” The Woman’s Exponent, March 1, 1881, 148.

Eileen, Stone, “Living History: Utah woman’s group still political after 90 years,” The Salt Lake Tribune, March 12, 2010.

The West, Episode 5 (1868-1874). The Woman’s Exponent.” Public Broadcasting Service.

Jean Bickmore White, “Women’s Suffrage in Utah.” Utah History To Go.

Woman’s Suffrage in Utah: The Woman’s Exponent Reacts To the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887


After the United States Congress stripped Utah women of their right to vote in 1887 through the Edmunds-Tucker Act, one Utah publication, The Woman’s Exponent, its editors and readers alike, chose to fight back. Through editorial pieces, letters, columns and speeches, it is evident that the people of Utah were united against this outrageous law which denied them their basic freedoms as citizens of the United States.

Utah women were able to vote in political matters as early as the year 1870, granted by territorial legislature. They were the first women in the history of the United States to have this right. Sometime in the year 1847 during the final settlement of the Salt Lake Valley, both men and women voted by ballot. This, Hubert Howe Bancroft records, may have been “the first instance in the United States where woman suffrage was permitted.” (Bancroft, 272)

The Edmunds-Tucker Act was passed in 1887 as an attempt to defeat polygamy in Utah as well as the political power of its Mormon settlers. The law broke down the local political system already well rooted in the Utah Territory, replacing it with federal control. Along with losing their rights to plural marriage and their land, Utah women were outraged at losing their basic right to vote after having it for seventeen years. Women fought this action and were supported by men both within the Mormon Church and outside it.

The Exponent, a Salt Lake City women’s newspaper originally published by Mormon women Emmeline B. Wells and Louisa Greene, was an eight-page monthly publication that covered topics ranging from church activity reports and homemaking hints to politics, both local and national. The Exponent was a well circulated form of communication in its time for women in the Utah Territory. On January 15,1887, its editors proclaimed the paper was not merely the voice of its editor or its columnists, but that of every Latter-day Saint woman. On the same date it also charged these women with having the responsibility to “help send this voice abroad,” thereby spreading information, knowledge, and promoting sisterhood.

Emmeline Wells was born in New England in 1828 at Petersham, Massachusetts. In March 1842, Wells was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints following her mother, who became a member in 1841. Crocheron notes that “Mrs. Wells often says she was born a woman’s rights advocate, inheriting it from her mother, who was a staunch advocate for woman’s emancipation” and who promoted the education of women, even among circumstances where it was not highly valued. It was in November 1847 that Wells first stepped into the office of the Exponent to assist the current editor and in July 1877 she took over the entire role of editor. (Crocheron, 69)

Wells, quick to endorse political action from women, wrote in the Exponent on November 1, 1880, encouraging her fellow females to take part in a local election scheduled for the next day. Votes were cast for the delegate to congress from Utah and Wells reminded her readers that despite recent attempts to abolish the franchise for women, they were still permitted to vote and every able woman should not miss her chance to do so.

Women enjoyed exercising their political power and, when talk began of Congress challenging their ability to do so in 1880, voices rose through the Exponent. One letter to the editor, published November 11, 1880, from a woman named Jane C. Johnson, demanded her right to be heard. Johnson challenged an article from a previous issue that argued women were not taxpayers and thus should not be allowed to vote. Johnson disputed this, writing, “I think we are very heavy taxpayers. Does not every wife own property in connection with her husband? I think so. Does not her labor help to make that property? … Yes we do …. We ask for the justice and freedom that belong to American citizens, and wish to vote for men of integrity and those that will stand by the constitution of our country.”

Mormon Church leaders, including its president Brigham Young, supported woman suffrage. George Q. Cannon and Brigham Young, then officials in the Mormon Church, wrote in the Deseret Evening News on July 23, 1878, “Under the laws of Congress a woman born in the United States is a citizen just as much as a man…. If woman is entitled to the name and position of a citizen, should she not also be invested with the rights and privileges of a citizen, so far as she is capable of properly exercising them?”

Editorials from other national magazines were included in The Woman’s Exponent to show not only that local women were being supported in their efforts to keep the vote, but also those who doubted the power and impact of the women’s movement. Before the imposition of the Edmunds-Tucker Act was conceived, a publication out of Philadelphia noted the trials of women in Utah. The Exponent recorded on November 12, 1880, that the editor of Woman’s Words in Philadelphia wrote, “Another effort is being made in Utah to disfranchise the women of that Territory … a [mandate] having been issued by the Supreme Court bearing on the question. We do not believe it will succeed. Liberty takes no step backward, and when the elective franchise is once exercised, no other can take it away without a revolution.”

That same date marks another paper with a similar tone from Matilda Joslyn Gage of the National Citizen in New York. “Let this attempt to deprive the women of Utah of their political rights nerve the heart and brain of every woman to more strenuous effort for a sixteenth amendment which shall recognize the rights of all United States citizens to the ballot. When once this is gained, no isolated state or territory can strike such a blow at suffrage rights.”

On March 21, 1888, The Deseret Evening News reported an international council of women in Washington, D.C., was to be held by the National Woman Suffrage Association on March 25, 1888. Suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony along with delegates from states and territories of the United States and England joined in the advocacy for woman’s rights, establishing the position to attain suffrage. Wells received a report from this council and printed it in the Exponent April 15, 1888, saying Utah’s position was not forgotten and the delegate from Utah, Emily S. Richards, delivered a speech that left the audience with perhaps a better view of Mormonism and feminism in the Utah Territory.

Woman’s rights made a large leap forward when, as the Exponent reported on February 1, 1895, Utah’s constitutional convention was to gather and the Utah Woman Suffrage Association impressed upon those in the convention to remember the rights of women in the state’s new constitution. Editors wrote, “Our government is ‘of the people, for the people and by the people.’ Whatever the status of women may be, they are at least a part of the people … and by no form of principle of reasoning can they be deprived of such rights and privileges as inure to men under government, without at the same time destroying the natural rights which men hold for themselves to be inviolate.”

The report of the Committee on Elections and Suffrage that emerged from the constitutional convention resolved, as the Exponent reported on April 1, 1895, “That the rights of citizens of the state of Utah to vote and hold office shall not be denied, or abridged on account of sex. Both male and female citizens of this state shall equally enjoy all civil political and religious rights and privileges.” In its completed work, the state constitution would include the victory of woman suffrage.

Women celebrated in Utah on November 5, 1895, when the final constitution was accepted, which included equal rights for women. On November 15, 1895, the Exponent rejoiced in Utah being the 45th state and proudly declared Utah as revolutionary for being only the third in the nation to incorporate women’s right to vote.

Utah’s history of woman suffrage is a unique one. The woman of Utah who voted in 1895 — decades before others in the country — succeeded in 1895 largely due to their supportive force from the dominant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The leading political figures of the state were Mormon and predominantly were for giving women voting privileges as they had originally been granted in 1870. However, without the vigilant efforts of Emmeline B. Wells and The Woman’s Exponent, it is possible Utah’s women may have been fighting even longer. As the early women settlers discovered, the power of the press is often stronger than the voice. Without the support network set up by Wells and other suffragists throughout the state, it is likely the issue of woman’s rights would have withered and faded until brought about by the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920.

Jamie Welch Jaro graduated in May 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communication. She studied print, new media and photojournalism throughout her college career and looks forward to a lifetime of writing in whatever field she pursues.



“What To Do with Your Exponent,” The Woman’s Exponent, January 15, 1887, 1.

Emmeline B. Wells, “The Coming Election,” The Woman’s Exponent, November 1, 1880, 4.

Jane C. Johnson, “Women Are Taxpayers,” The Woman’s Exponent, November 1, 1880, 8.

George Q. Cannon and Brigham Young, “Woman In Politics,” Deseret Evening News, July 23, 1878, 2.

Lewis, “The Coming Election,” The Woman’s Exponent, November 1, 1880, 4.

Matilda Joslyn Gage, “The Coming Election,” The Woman’s Exponent, November 1, 1880, 4.

Emmeline B. Wells, “An International Council of Women,” Deseret Evening News, March 21, 1888, 151.

“N.W.S.A. Convention,” The Woman’s Exponent, April 15, 1888, 4.

“Woman Suffrage Column,” The Woman’s Exponent, February 1, 1895, 1.

“Woman Suffrage Column,” The Woman’s Exponent, April 1, 1895, 4.

“The New State,” The Woman’s Exponent, November 1-15, 1895, 4.


Hubert Howe Bancroft. History of Utah, 1540-1887. San Francisco: The History Company, 1889.

Augusta Joyce Crocheron. Representative Women of Deseret. Salt Lake City, Utah: J.C. Graham, 1884.

The Woman’s Exponent and Its Impact on Women’s Suffrage


The Woman’s Exponent was a monthly newspaper that was published from June 1872 until February 1914. A Brigham Young University archive notes the newspaper was geared specifically toward women of the LDS faith and helped to record the early history of Utah. According to the archive, although the LDS Church did not own The Woman’s Exponent, it did gain the backing and support of the Church. The Relief Society of the LDS Church operated the newspaper. The Woman’s Exponent had such a profound effect on Utah history because it not only was early documentation of what was going on Utah, but it also took a stance on many political issues, including women’s suffrage.

Emmeline Wells was one of the first women to stand up and support women’s suffrage in The Woman’s Exponent. In the first issue printed on June 1,1872, Wells was quoted saying, “Millions of intelligent women are deprived of the vote simply because nature qualified them to become mothers and not fathers of men. They may own property, pay taxes, assist in supporting the government, rend their heart-strings in giving for its aid the children of their affections, but they are denied all right to say who shall disburse those taxes, how that government shall be conducted, or who shall decide on a question of peace or war which may involve the lives of their sons, brothers, fathers and husbands.” This statement Emmeline Wells made in the first issue showed not only the outlook of the Utah women, but also the men in Utah as well.

According to an article printed by the Women of the West Museum, Brigham Young, the Prophet of the LDS Church at the time, supported The Woman’s Exponent and Emmeline Wells’ opinion on women’s suffrage. Young thought that if the women of Utah could vote it would help him gain more control over the territory. The Woman’s Exponent did not just give Emmeline Wells the ability to voice her opinion, but it also gave women all over Utah the option to stand up and get their opinions heard, which is another reason that The Woman’s Exponent played such a strong role in the women’s suffrage movement.

Other women also used The Woman’s Exponent as a tool to gain support for women. Louisa L. Greene, who was the first editor of the newspaper, wrote in the June 15, 1872, issue, “We have no rivalry with any, no war to wage, no contest to provoke; yet we will endeavor, at all times, to speak freely on every topic of current interest, and on every subject as it arises in which the women of Utah, and the great sisterhood the world over, are specially interested.” By publishing this quote in The Woman’s Exponent, Greene ensured that the paper would cover any issue it pleased and that just because women wrote it did not mean that they would hold back on their opinions. This ideal held true because the topic of the fight for women’s suffrage can be seen throughout many of the issues published. In the PBS documentary, The West: Episode 5, the women also used their voices to stand up and support polygamy as well.

The Woman’s Exponent continued to fight for women’s suffrage by including news about some of the biggest supporters of women’s suffrage. Susan B. Anthony was included on the front page in the July 15, 1872, issue of The Woman’s Exponent. Part of a letter she wrote to the men of the Republican Convention was published. She said, “In behalf of the women of this nation, one-half the entire people, I ask you to put a plank in your platform that shall assert the duty of the National Government to protect women citizens in the exercise of their right to vote, and thereby make it possible for women possessed of true self-respect to advocate the claims of the Republican Party to the suffrage of the people.” By including this piece about Anthony, it can be determined that The Woman’s Exponent believed that women’s suffrage news was worthy of a spot on the front page. This placement in the journal stressed that the Utah women during this time felt that they were respectful women who deserved equal treatment and rights. Articles such as the Anthony piece described above give validation to the opinions of Utah women during this time period. This piece is included in the journal because The Woman’s Exponent most likely wanted to show its support for equal rights for women.

Anthony also appeared in another publication of The Woman’s Exponent. In the July 1, 1873, issue an article was published about a recent court trial that was held to determine if she had voted illegally. The article reported, “As might have been anticipated, Judge Hunt, in the trial of Susan B. Anthony, for illegal voting at Rochester, New York, gave the decision that each State and not the United States, has the power and authority to judge for its own citizens in relation to sex and other qualifications. Miss Anthony is a shrewd woman, does not give up the chase and at the next general election, will probably be allowed to vote as she deserves to do nonetheless.” This article gave a clear view of where The Woman’s Exponent stood on women’s suffrage. By publishing the opinion that Anthony deserves to vote in the next election, the newspaper made it clear just how strong their support for women’s suffrage was.

Another early issue of The Woman’s Exponent announced news of the progress of women’s fight for equal rights and the freedom to vote. The announcement appeared in the August 1,1872, issue. The news speaks of recent progress in the state of Iowa. The piece stated, “In Iowa there is no provisions of the law which excludes women from holding any office in which they may be elected. In several counties women are holding elected offices. When the right of suffrage is granted to the women there, what a happy state Iowa will be!” This article emphasized The Woman’s Exponent and its fight for women’s suffrage. Specifically, the declaration that the women in Iowa will be happy when women’s suffrage is granted gives the opinion of the journal. The Woman’s Exponent would not have provided such excitement over this news had its staff not shared the opinion that women should have equal rights.

Many other articles also showed The Woman’s Exponent’s stance on women’s suffrage. In the April 1, 1873, issue an article was printed that discussed the women of Massachusetts and the outcome of a vote that had taken place to give women equal rights. The article stated, “The friends of woman suffrage in Massachusetts, are grieved at the action of the legislature of that State, in which, not-withstanding the Republican platform for the prohibition of equal political rights for women was voted down by a large majority. They declare themselves ‘defeated but not conquered’; and they eventually gain the victory.” The Woman’s Exponent printed articles about the fight for equal rights to show their support. The staff of the newspaper printed these articles to keep their readers informed and up to date on different matters of equal rights for women.

The August 15, 1872, issue of The Woman’s Exponent included a story on its front page that exemplified the stand women in New York were taking to express that they wanted equal rights. The brief article noted, “Five young ladies of New York announced through a leading newspaper the other day that they would ride in a public part of the city, on horseback, in the style men use: without side saddles. Whether the exploit was an illustration of moral courage, or a specimen of ‘fast’ life, the public can determine; but the act itself shows that the modesty which our great-grandfathers admired in our great-grandmothers is not so popular as it might be to the benefit of well-ordered society.” This particular piece can give us today an idea of how people in Utah (particularly women) felt about the fight for women to have equal rights. Women during this time were expected to act very differently from men, and those women who would not conform to this ideal of society were looked down upon. By printing this story, The Woman’s Exponent was making a broad opinion for the women who read this journal. Printing stories, such as the one above, showed that the newspaper supported change for not only Utah women but also all women in the United States.

The Woman’s Exponent didn’t just include information on the steps the United States was making to give woman equal rights. The paper also took the initiative to report on advancements the world made. In an article published on June 1, 1873, news from Switzerland was reported. The article stated, “Female Emancipation makes wonderful strides in the Republic of Switzerland. At the last term of Zurich University 110 lady students were entered; and this term 119 are already reported entered with the lists not closed. The assignment of professional chairs to women is only considered a matter of time. And the end is not yet.” This article was an example of how The Woman’s Exponent took a stand on and was interested in equality for women everywhere.

Lastly, The Woman’s Exponent gave support to women’s suffrage and equal rights because it gave women a voice in the marketplace of ideas. During this time period, women were oppressed and considered to be inferior to men. However, the women of Utah used The Woman’s Exponent as a tool to get their opinions heard. By giving women an outlet to voice their opinions, we can now look back and see what issues were important to the early settlers in Utah. We can see what the early women in Utah were facing and the goals they wished to accomplish. The Woman’s Exponent was vital to the history of women’s suffrage in Utah and we can see this because the journal gave women in Utah a voice.

In conclusion, The Woman’s Exponent is a great example of Utah history and of how women in Utah took a stand for women’s suffrage and equal rights. Through editors and writers such as Louise L. Greene and Emmeline Wells, the paper was able to create a strong and clear message on their stance for women’s suffrage. Both women wrote about equal rights for women and focused on the ways in which they could use their leadership at the journal to improve the lives for women everywhere. The Woman’s Exponent also printed news on the major women’s suffrage movement leaders. One in particular, Susan B. Anthony, was quoted in the journal and given more press on the efforts she was putting forth to bring equal and voting rights to women. The journal also included stories of young women around the country who were taking stands against society and the mannerisms in which one had to follow to be a lady. The story about the five young ladies who wanted to ride through the streets of New York like men is an example of this. Lastly, The Woman’s Exponent gave women a place to express their opinion and document the history of early Utah. By giving Utah women this freedom, we not only have a detailed early history of Utah but we also know where so many women stood on the issues of women’s suffrage and equal rights.

Jordan Evans is junior at the University of Utah. She will graduate in Fall 2010 with a degree in mass communication.


Emmeline Wells, “News And Views,” The Woman’s Exponent, June 1, 1872, 1.

Louisa Greene, “News And Views,” The Woman’s Exponent, June 15, 1872, 4.

Susan B. Anthony, “To The National Republican Convention- Gentlemen,” The Woman’s Exponent, July 15,1872, 17.

“News And Views,” The Woman’s Exponent, August 1, 1872, 33.

“News And Views,” The Woman’s Exponent, August 15, 1872, 41.

“News and Views,” The Woman’s Exponent, April 1, 1873, 161.

“News and Views,” The Woman’s Exponent, June 1, 1873, 1.

“News and Views,” The Woman’s Exponent, July 1, 1873, 17.

Emmeline Blanch Wells.” Women of the West Museum.

The Woman’s Exponent.” Mormon Publications: 20th Century. Brigham Young University.

The Woman’s Exponent.” New Perspectives on The West: Episode Five (1868-1874). Public Broadcasting Service, 2001.