Utah State University celebrates the Year of the Woman Telling Our Story: 1890-2020

Utah State University joins the nation and state in celebrating significant voting rights anniversaries in 2020. As the university honors these important milestones in the nation’s history, and as part of those celebrations, Utah State University declares the 2019-20 school year as the “Year of the Woman.”

As the nation looks to the 150th anniversary of suffrage for Utah women (Feb. 12, 1870), the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States (Aug. 26, 1920) and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (Aug. 6, 1965), Utah State University will highlight the significant role of women in the institution’s history.

“These important moments in our nation’s history commemorate the importance of voting and its role in our society and provide the foundation for acknowledging the history of women students, faculty, staff and alumni at Utah State University,” said USU President Noelle Cockett.

When the Agricultural College of Utah officially opened for classes in September 1890, a faculty of nine included Abby L. Marlatt, professor of domestic economy, and Sarah Goodwin, teacher of music and the institution’s first librarian. They taught students in the only portion of Old Main that was completed at the time, the south wing. Among the 106 men and 33 women looking forward to the college experience was 14-year-old Vendla Bernston of Logan, who became the first of 139 students to enroll that fall at what would become Utah State University. These women, from the institution’s humble beginnings, set the trajectory for generations of Aggie women to follow.

“Our goal is to highlight the achievements of USU women past and present and consider women’s roles in every aspect of campus life,” said Joyce Kinkead, co-chair of Year of the woman and Distinguished Professor of English. “Their voices have impacted the cultural, scientific, economic and social fabric of Utah State University for generations.”

USU will highlight the Year of the Woman, including its statewide campuses and Extension sites, during its signature events such as Founders Day, Old Main Society, Homecoming, Sunrise Sessions, Connections and Commencement. There will be symposia, exhibitions, performances, speakers, classes and other events focused on the theme of women with special attention to USU’s history as well as the landmark anniversaries of voting rights. 

“By showing the strong foundation set by strong Aggie women many generations ago and highlighting the many accomplishments of current women faculty, staff, alumni and students, we hope to empower women and inspire the future generation of girls,” said Sydney Peterson, co-chair of Year of the Woman and secretary for USU’s Board of Trustees.

 The university asks everyone to join in celebrating Aggie women who have been a force in the classroom, on campus, in the community, in the world and beyond for 130 years. 

The Year of the Woman is co-chaired by Kinkead and Peterson. They are joined on a Steering Committee that includes President Cockett; Vice President of University Marketing and Communications William Plate and Vice President for Advancement Matt White. Five working groups will focus on student involvement, academics, special events, outreach and marketing.

To learn more about the Year of the Woman, and for updates throughout the year, visit www.usu.edu/year-of-the-woman.