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Horne, Alice Merrill (1868–1948)

Horne, Alice Merrill (1868–1948)

American educator, legislator, social and political activist. Born in Fillmore, Utah, on January 2, 1868; died on October 7, 1948; fourth of fourteen children of Clarence Merrill (a telegraph operator and farmer) and Bathsheba (Smith) Merrill (a thespian); attended Old Rock Schoolhouse in Fillmore; graduated University of Deseret (later the University of Utah), 1887; married George H. Horne (a banker), on February 20, 1890; children: Mary (b. November 26, 1890); Lyman (b. September 20, 1896, who married Myrtle Horne); Virginia (b. October 12, 1899); George, Jr. (1902–1903); Zorah (b. June 12, 1905); Albert (b. September 10, 1910).

The fourth of fourteen children of Clarence Merrill , a telegraph operator and farmer, and Bathsheba Smith Merrill , the daughter of a Territorial Legislature president, Alice Merrill Horne was born on January 2, 1868, in a log cabin in Fillmore, Utah. At age nine, Horne went to live with her grandmother in Salt Lake City, where she completed grade school and enrolled in the University of Deseret (later the University of Utah). There she studied art and literature and launched a Shakespearean Society for the study and performance of Shakespeare's plays before graduating in 1887 with a degree in pedagogy. Her grandmother Bathsheba Bigler Smith was well-established in Salt Lake City society; through her, Alice came to know many of the territory's leading artists and politicians (Utah would not become a state until 1896). Alice studied privately with intermountain artists and became involved with arts programs, women's suffrage, and several local charitable organizations.

In 1890, Alice married George H. Horne, a local banker who assisted and encouraged her in her interests outside the home. Together they would have six children, one of whom would die in infancy.

A year after her marriage, Alice Horne was appointed chair of the Utah Liberal Arts Committee for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. To demonstrate Utah's developing culture, she published a book of poems written by Utah women poets and illustrated by Utah women artists, and personally delivered the exhibit to Chicago. She went on to visit New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C., gaining ideas for many of the civic, artistic, and educational programs she would champion in the future. After

returning to Utah, Horne resumed teaching, which she continued through most of the ensuing years, and in 1894 began her political career by successfully sponsoring a candidate for election to the Board of Education. The Democratic Party selected her to run for State Representative in 1899; when she won, she became the second woman in Utah to be elected to a state office (21 years before the 19th Amendment would establish women's right to vote).

As a legislator, Horne sponsored a bill to establish an umbrella state agency for the arts. Upon signing the bill into law, the governor, Heber Wells, proclaimed: "This Art Bill assures that Utah is the first state in the Union to provide a state institution for the encouragement of the fine arts." Among her other acts as a legislator were a public health bill and a Fish and Game bill, and as chair of the University Land-Site Bill she placed the University of Utah in its present location on the foothills overlooking Salt Lake City. Alice Horne also proposed a free four-year scholarship bill for teachers, through which over 200 teachers were educated. Then, pregnant with her third child, Horne chose not to run for re-election.

From 1901 to 1916, Horne served on the General Board of the Relief Society (the women's organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, holding workshops, writing lesson programs, and sponsoring a "Clean Milk for Utah" campaign which established rigid inspections and standards for milk sold in the state. This was a personal issue for Horne, who believed the death of her fourth child to have been caused by tainted milk. In 1902 she was an organizer for the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, writing its constitution and by-laws and serving as secretary and later as president. She was chair of the Peace Committee in 1903, and received commendation for extensive community participation from May Wright Sewall , the national chair. At the 1904 International Congress of Women in Berlin, Germany, Horne represented the National Women's Relief Society and the United States and gave invited addresses on the Utah art movement as well as her experience as a woman in politics.

After resigning from the General Board of the Relief Society, Horne was Salt Lake County chair of the Democratic Party and was active in the Sites Committee which identified areas suitable for monuments to honor pioneers. She wrote Devotees and Their Shrines: A Handbook of Utah Art in 1914, and a children's play, Columbus Westward Ho! in 1922. In the 1930s, she organized the "Smokeless Fuel Federation" to eliminate the environmental hazard of coal as a home-heating fuel, and was pivotal in organizing the Women's Chamber of Commerce in support of the program. However, one of Horne's most important contributions to her state, and in particular to the intermountain region around Salt Lake City, began with the establishment of her art galleries in 1921. Within ten years, she was able to note that she had sold 474 paintings from more than 40 exhibiting artists for over $49,000. Her salons continued into the late 1940s, promulgating her stated beliefs that "in each home should hang a good picture, no matter how small," and that the best way to learn about art was to "live with it: make it a part of your home and of your experience." Wanting Utah children to have the advantage of original art around them, Horne installed 40 art collections in the state's schools and in Idaho and Wyoming, involving scores of paintings by intermountain artists; she also held art exhibitions throughout Utah.

Alice Horne was one of the first inductees to the Salt Lake City Council of Women's Hall of Fame after its establishment in 1932, and received a Medal of Honor for her civic service from the Academy of Western Culture in 1942. A Heritage Hall at Brigham Young University was named after her in 1954. Replacing paintings in exhibits and working up to the end of her life, she was taken ill at 80 while at an art exhibit and died in the hospital on October 7, 1948.


Arrington, Harriet Horne. "Alice Merrill Horne, Art Promoter and Early Utah Legislator," in Utah Historical Quarterly. Vol. 58. Summer 1990, pp. 261–276.

——, and Leonard J. Arrington, "Alice Merrill Horne, Cultural Entrepreneur," in Mary E. Stovall and Carol Cornwall Madsen, eds., A Heritage of Faith. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1988, pp. 121–136.

Olpin, Robert S. Dictionary of Utah Art. Salt Lake City, UT: Salt Lake Art Center, 1980, pp. 126–128.

Pioneers of Utah Art. Logan, UT: Kaysville Art Club, Educational Printing Service, 1968, pp. vii–viii.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, William C. Seifrit. Utah Art. Springville, UT: Springville Museum of Art and Peregrine Smith Books, 1991.

Widtsoe, Leah T. "The Story of a Gifted Lady," in Relief Society Magazine. Vol. 32. March 1945, pp. 150–155.

Harriet Horne Arrington , women's biographer, Salt Lake City, Utah

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