Elvira S. Barney

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Elvira Stevens Woodbury Huntington Barney practiced obstetrics and medicine in Utah and was an advocate for women’s rights and religious liberty. In response to the threat of federal legislation limiting Latter-day Saint women’s voting rights because of polygamy, Barney spoke at a mass meeting on March 6, 1886. “Notwithstanding these protests, the federal government rescinded the vote from Utah women the following year. In 1889, Utah women formed the Utah Woman Suffrage Association, an affiliate organization of the National Woman Suffrage Association that had been founded two decades earlier by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.” Local suffrage associations were organized throughout Utah Territory over the next few years. The territory organization convened in the Assembly Hall in Salt Lake City on October 7, 1889. Barney gave the invocation, a prewritten prayer that was then printed in the Woman's Exponent.

She was born in Gerry, New York, on March 17, 1832. Her family converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1844 and gathered with the Saints in Nauvoo. Her parents died within three months of each other (her father, October 1844, and her mother, January 1845). After the death of their mother, the family’s farm and household goods were sold, and each of the five children received ten dollars to fit them for the journey west with the Saints. Barney never saw her twin brother again, as he died six years later.

Elvira migrated to the Salt Lake Valley with the Brigham Young pioneer company and arrived on September 20, 1848. She served a mission to the Sandwich Islands with her then-husband John Woodbury, and a group of fellow missionaries from 1851 to 1856.

She was married three times: to John Woodbury, Oliver Huntington, and Royal Barney, Jr. Each marriage ended in divorce.

She attended Wheaton College in Illinois and University of Deseret. She also studied medicine in the eastern United States, then returned to Utah to teach medical courses for young women. “She demonstrated her father’s knack for business in her work with the home manufacture movement, women’s cooperative stores, and grain storage, all of which were closely associated with the Relief Society.”[1]

Elvira died in Salt Lake City on January 12, 1909.