Editor's note: This is an excerpt from "Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Vol. 3: 1846-1870," edited by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Brittany A. Chapman about Mary Elizabeth Woolley Chamberlain (1870-1953) written by Janell M. Higbee and the chapter is titled "A Strong and Abiding Testimony."
In 1911, Mary Elizabeth Woolley Chamberlain was elected chairman of the first all-female town council in the United States. That town council, in Kanab, served for two years.
Even while she was mayor of Kanab, Mary proudly noted that she did “all (her) own house work” and was employed as “clerk in the store part of the time,” while concurrently serving in callings for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as “local Supt. of Religion Class, Teacher of the 2nd Int[ermediate] Dept. in S(unday) S(chool), and Treasurer of Relief Society.”
She wrote: "In November 1911, I was elected president of the town board of Kanab, Utah, which office I held for two years ….
"The entire board was composed of women, and a great deal was said and written about us at the time. … I was elected under the name of Mary W. Howard, as I still went by that assumed name.
"Our election was intended as a joke and no one thought seriously of it at the time. When election day dawned, there was no ticket in the field; no one seemed interested in the supervision of the town, so the loafers on the ditchbank (of which there were always plenty) proceeded to make up the above ticket as a burlesque, but there was no other ticket in opposition, so, of course, we were elected.
"When Father came and told me about it, I was disgusted and said I would not think of qualifying and I knew others would not even if I did, etc., but he insisted that we take it seriously and put the job over as he knew we could, and he would give us all the support and backing possible. Brother Chamberlain also encouraged us and would not listen to our backing out. D. D. Rust, editor of the local paper, gave us a big write-up which was full of confidence in our ability, etc. So, after due consideration and much debating, we decided to tackle the job and see what we could do.
"As soon as our election was published, we were besieged with letters from all over the country wanting to know all about it, how we managed, what we were doing, etc. and etc.
"Sister Susa Young Gates visited Kanab while we were in office and was very enthusiastic over our work. Women’s Suffrage was one of her many hobbies and she was delighted with what she saw and heard while here. She was then writing a book on what Utah women had accomplished and insisted that I write her all the details of our work, setting down the plain facts as best I could and then she would weave them into a story of her own.
"So, at the first opportunity, October 19, 1913, I proceeded to do so. When the letter reached Salt Lake City, she happened to be away from home in the East, and it fell into the hands of the editor of the Improvement Era, who published it verbatim in the July 1914 Era.
"Imagine my surprise and embarrassment when I saw what had been done, as I never dreamed of having the letter itself published ….
"Aunt Susa always called me 'Mayor' and shouted it out wherever she met me, on the street, in meeting, at the temple, or elsewhere, much to my embarrassment at times, but she took great delight in it."