Better Days 2020: Putting The Spotlight On Utah Women’s History

Some songs are classics that cement the zeitgeist and culture of their time period into audio history forever. Others flame out immediately, blown out by their own performer’s lack of talent or bad marketing. And still others are like flares—bright and noisy and sometimes Billboard 100-worthy, but for the most part fading away into obscurity after a few years of playing at high school dances. Better Days by the Goo Goo Dolls is one of these songs.

Birthed into the world on a Target store-branded Christmas album, Better Days has been used for hurricane news coverage, lost Orlando Magic home games, and liberal Canadian politicians. That, folks, is what true versatility looks like.

Better Days is a great title because it’s infused with hopefulness and optimism (how can you have better days without good days?), which is why it’s also great as a name for a non-profit: Better Days 2020.

Founded just over a year ago, Better Days 2020 is on a mission to remind us Utahns of our state history in women’s advocacy, just in time for the 150th anniversary of Utah being the first place where a woman cast a ballot in the U.S.—which will be in 2020.

“Utah has unusual cultural and religious forces that make it a truly unique and wonderful place. Advocating for women was part of the bedrock this state was founded upon, and we’ve lost that legacy,” said Neylan McBaine, the CEO and founder. “We want to remind people that Utah led the way in women’s advocacy in the 19th century, and that gives us a precedent for doing it again in the 21st. Better Days 2020 popularizes Utah women's history through education, legislation, and art in an effort to strengthen the culture of women's advancement in our state today.”

As it turns out, Utah’s roots go extremely deep when it comes to supporting women—much more so than most of us ever realized or learned in school.

“In addition to having the first woman to legally cast a ballot in the United States (on Feburary 14, 1870 in the Council Hall building, still in downtown Salt Lake), Utah was the third state to write women’s rights into its state constitution, and the first state to elect a female state senator (Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon),” shared Neylan. “Also, Emmeline B. Wells, Utah’s leading suffragist, was one of Susan B. Anthony’s dear friends, and Anthony had come to Utah several times to congratulate the women here on their pioneering accomplishments. Wells edited the Woman’s Exponent, which was one of the longest running suffrage newspapers in the nation.“

To bring these facts back to the forefront of everyone’s minds, Better Days 2020 is launching a number of projects. One of these was the women’s history festival, “Party Like It’s 1870,” that happened in September at This is the Place Heritage Park and attracted 750 people.

“At the festival, current male elected officials—like Speaker Greg Hughes and Mayor Ben McAdams—participated in a readers’ theater where they spoke lines taken directly from the constitutional convention where it was decided (by men) that women’s suffrage would be included in the Utah state constitution,” said Neylan. “These words are over 130 years old, but these current legislators noticed and commented on how some of the arguments presented then about women— how they are too good for politics and business, how they should be happy with the influence they have in their homes—are still being used today, albeit in modernized forms. But their core is recognizable. That’s powerful!”

Other Better Days 2020 projects include being the lead promoter of the “Send Martha” campaign (a bill to send a statue of Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon to the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol Buildling in 2020), adding learning about the legacy of women’s history to Utah social studies curricula, launching a new license plate that says “Utah Women: First to Vote,” and creating a Downtown Suffrage Walking Tour that takes people to numerous suffrage sites in downtown SLC.

The team making all of this happen is made up of women as driven and passionate as the women suffragists in Utah’s history, supported by a number of donors and partners.

“Thanks to an appropriation from the state and great corporate donors like Zions Bank, Dominion Energy, NuSkin, Zagg and others, we have a team of seven extremely skilled professionals who we’ve been able to hire,” Neylan says. “We have a crack horsewoman, a former college track athlete, and one of our team members just saw the oldest living drag queen. We are single, married, divorced, and moms many times over. Two of our team members have PhDs, and several of our team members are working towards masters degrees in online and part time programs right now. They have strong characters and strong visions of themselves. I love these women and are so proud of everything about them.”

**To support Better Days 2020, tell a teacher you know about the Utah Women’s History site or get a First to Vote license plate (available starting October 1st). To order the plate, visit this link and select “Women’s Suffrage History” in the “Plate Type” dropdown. You’ll need your current license plate number and VIN. Plates can be ordered at any time for any car (new or old). There is a $20 fee and the plate will be mailed to your home.

To learn more about Better Days 2020, visit their website.**


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