Sisters for SuffrageThe Great Debate

The Great Debate

With statehood on the horizon, delegates met on March 4, 1895, to frame Utah’s constitution. The ensuing debate over whether to include suffrage in the new state constitution was surprisingly lengthy, lasting over two months.

Salt Lake City and County Building, circa 1894. Delegates to the Utah State Constitutional Convention met in this building, located at 451 State Street, to debate the issue of woman suffrage.

For Suffrage

Franklin Snyder Richards (1849–1934) was the husband of suffragist Emily S. Richards. He fought against efforts to disenfranchise Utah women and participated in the 1895 Utah State Constitutional Convention, speaking in favor of including woman suffrage in the new state constitution: “Equal Suffrage will prove the brightest and purest ray of Utah’s glorious star.”9

Orson Ferguson Whitney (1855–1931) was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During the 1895 Utah State Constitutional Convention, he made several speeches in favor of including woman suffrage in the state constitution, stating, “I regard [woman’s voice in government] as one of the great levers by which the Almighty is lifting up this fallen world, lifting it nearer to the throne of its Creator.”10

Against Suffrage

Brigham Henry Roberts (1857–1933) was a Latter-day Saint historian, writer, politician, and member of the First Council of the Seventy. As the Davis County Democratic delegate to the 1895 Utah State Constitutional Convention, he surprised and upset many of his constituents by opposing the inclusion of woman suffrage in the new state constitution, stating, “The adoption of woman suffrage is dangerous to the acquiring of statehood.”11

At age 25, Anthony Canute Lund (1871–1935) was the youngest member of the 1895 Utah State Constitutional Convention, where he argued against the inclusion of woman suffrage in the constitution, claiming, “Equal suffrage would disturb domestic tranquility.”12