Utah's Road
to Statehood [banner]

Constitutional Convention

The Seal
Enabling Act

Once the Woodruff Manifesto of 1890 had dismantled the practice of polygamy, Utah moved steadily toward achieving statehood. Territorial delegate John T. Caine introduced a bill on 14 January 1893 for a statehood enabling act. This bill lost, however, and became the pattern for a bill introduced by Caine's successor Joseph L. Rawlins. The Rawlins Statehood Bill passed the House of Representatives on 13 December 1893 and emerged from Congress the following July as Utah's Enabling Act. Signed by President Cleveland on 18 July 1894, the act provided for the election of delegates to a constitutional convention held the following March. Territorial Governor Caleb West (1893-1896) proclaimed the opening of the convention as "a red-letter day for Utah; this is the most glorious day of her history."

B.H. Roberts, a delegate

The constitutional convention, presided over by Republican John Henry Smith, met from 4 March to 8 May 1895. Smith was presented as the only nominee by George B. Squires and received unanimous support from the convention members. His motto, "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain," set the stage for a convention faced with numerous tasks, including acceptance of the American constitution, formation of committees, rules of order, arrangement of seating, permanent offices, and, perhaps most pressing, the woman suffrage issue. The convention's final outcome would be a constitution (plain text or scanned images) patterned closely after those of other American states but one which met the requirements of a territory with a unique history.

Women's Suffrage

Perhaps the most controversial topic, along with the initial polygamy question, involved woman suffrage. Suffrage was granted first in 1870 by the territorial legislature but later revoked by Congress in 1887 as part of a national effort to rid the territory of polygamy. Women in Utah had enjoyed the support and attention of the national Woman's Suffrage Association since 1870 and were determined to see their rights restored. Suffragists established numerous branches of the national association throughout the territory in hopes of generating grassroots support for restoring the right of women to vote. This tactic proved successful when the rights to vote and hold office were written into the constitution of the new state in 1895.

Salt Lake
City & County Building
A place to meet

Numerous questions needed to be answered during the convention including the makeup of the new state legislative assembly and a proper space for them to meet in.

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This page was last updated November 13, 2002.