11 May 2020

The High Hat Law: First Bill Introduced by a Woman in the Utah Legislature

Eurithe K. LaBarthe (1850-1910)
Image from UDSH
Colorization by MyHeritage
Mrs. E. K. LaBarthe, as she was known by her peers in the Utah Legislature, was the first Utah woman to introduce a bill in the state legislature. On Jan 15, 1897, she introduced House Bill 13 which quickly became known in the press as the “High Hat Law.”

Eurithe K. LaBarthe (1850-1910) was elected to the first state legislature on Nov 3, 1896 as a representative of the 8th District of SLC. (Of note, Mrs. Sara E. Anderson from Ogden was also elected to the State Legislature and Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon was elected to the State Senate at that time.)

Prior to her election Mrs. LaBarthe was a relative newcomer to SLC arriving with her husband and child in 1892. She became well known in SLC as a clubwoman and served as president of the Ladies Literary Club in which she was instrumental in organizing the establishment of their first permanent clubhouse located at 20 S 300 East (now demolished).

Although the press, and some of her peers, scoffed at her High Hat Law, it did address a rather large social issue of the time- the wearing of large feathery hats that obstructed the view of others at the theater. 

Mrs. LaBarthe’s bill mandated that any person attending an indoor place of amusement must remove their headwear that may obstruct the view of any other person, violators could be fined from $1 to $10 ($30 to $311 in 2020 dollars). The bill passed both houses and became law upon the signature of Governor Wells.

She also introduced House Bill 50 to establish curfew for children, which was rejected as it being more suited for cities and towns to regulate. 

And she attempted to obtain the abandoned Industrial Home, a refuge for women and children fleeing polygamy, from the federal government for the State of Utah’s use in educational and charity work.

Soon after her work in the Utah Legislature she moved to Denver where she resided until her death. She died in SLC of pneumonia at the age of 65 on Nov 22 1910 while visiting her son. She is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

More info: “Gentle persuaders : Utah's first women legislators” by Jean Bickmore White. UHQ V38, N1 (winter 1970).
A "high hat" from the 1896 Sears Roebuck Catalog.

A "high hat" from the 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog.

A "high hat" from the 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog.

A "high hat" from the 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog.

No comments:

Post a Comment