USU's Year of the Woman Accomplishments

On February 14, 2020, Utah celebrated 150 years of women voting, one of three significant voting anniversaries that included the ratification of the 19th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Utah State University seized the opportunity to build on these anniversaries and recognize the many distinguished women of Utah State University in the Year of the Woman.

Even though the pandemic curtailed some activities, 70 events were produced or scheduled, and this story summarizes some of the many accomplishments of the statewide celebration.

  • USU 4-H Clubs around the state created 77 quilts as a service project for the Women and Children in Crisis Center.
  • USU Uintah Basin produced a series of 25 videos to recognize local “Impactful Women.”
  • A Year of the Woman Timeline traced the impact of women over the university’s 130 years, beginning with the first student, Vendla Berntson.
  • Recovered stories of women from the past paired with contemporary USU women resulted in 80 stories published in Utah State Today.
  • A “Suffrage Celebration” concert by the American Festival Orchestra & Choir featured an original composition by Kurt Bestor and conducting by alum Dr. Stephanie Rhodes Russell.
  • This is Her Place: Stories of Utah Women, Past & Present podcast by produced by Patrick Mason and co-hosted by Naomi Watkins and Utah Public Radio’s Tom Williams.
  • “Telling Our Story: 130 Years of Aggie Women,” a physical and digital exhibition in the Merrill-Cazier Library, curated by undergraduate researcher Alana Miller Manesse.
  • The “Hello Walkway” featured lamppost banners of ground-breaking women.
  • Permanent interpretative signage was added to buildings honoring distinguished women, and a wellness walk brochure to these buildings was developed.
  • Book Club in a Box by the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art with support from Utah Arts Council featured suffrage readings.
  • A Voting Rights Symposium, chaired by Distinguished Professor of History Tammy Proctor, featured weekly keynote speakers and hundreds of participants joining in virtually.
  • Unladylike 2020 documentary films shown at the Historic Utah Theatre in downtown Logan were supported by Utah Humanities.
  • Voting rights information booths, designed by Gail Griswold of the Cache Celebration of Suffrage group, were on display on campus and around the state.
  • The Vendla Berntson Scholarship to support students in financial need was established with support from the Year of the Woman Ambassadors, chaired by Dr. Cecelia H. Foxley.
  • The Anthropology Museum featured an exhibit of the political art of Nina Allender, suffragist.
  • The Jon M. Huntsman College of Business organized a “She’s Daring Mighty Things Summit.”
  • A walking tour of significant voting rights sites in Logan was developed by undergraduate history major Chloe Miller.
  • The USU Davis campus hosted a Celebrating Women Conference.
  • Women in Research Night highlighted women researchers for students.
  • A Celebration of Women Piano Composers by the Department of Music; additionally, the Piano Practice Rooms were renamed in honor of women composers, a student-led initiative.
  • Utah Public Radio Essay Contest on Voting Rights for elementary, middle, and high school students.
  • USU Brigham City hosted a lecture series on Year of the Woman: Celebrating 150 Years.
  • Poetry readings, film showings, guest speakers, health and wellness workshops.

Year of the Woman recovered the voices and stories of these women from the past, lauded their legacy in the current generation, and anticipated the continued success of our students, alumni, staff and faculty. Mignon Barker Richmond, the first Black woman to graduate college in Utah, was one of them.

USU celebrated often-unknown Aggie women—those who served as pioneers from the institution’s earliest days, to those who are paving the way for future generations of leaders and innovators. From the first day of classes in 1890 as the state’s land-grant campus, women have been actively engaged as students, staff, and faculty. Their voices have impacted the cultural, scientific, economic, and social fabric of Utah State University for generations.

Co-chairs of Year of the Woman, Sydney Peterson and Joyce Kinkead, along with research assistant Alana Miller Manesse, express thanks to the many people who joined in celebrating USU’s women, who have been a force in the classroom, on campus, in the community, in the world, and beyond for 130 years.

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