30 Mar Book of the Week — Speeches of Hon. O. F. Whitney in Support of Woman Suffrage Delivered in the Constitutional Convention of Utah
“[W]e will put woman suffrage in the Constitution; we will strike the fetters from the wrists of our wives, mothers, sisters and daughters; we will grant them the boon already granted to the black man under the pledge of the declaration that ‘all men are created equal’ and that ‘governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed;” we will take one more step in the mighty march of human liberty, which has been sweeping down the ages from the dawn of Time even until now.” — Orson F. Whitney
Speeches of Hon. O. F. Whitney in Support of Woman Suffrage Delivered in the Constitutional Convention of Utah March 30th, April 2nd, and April 5th, 1895
Orson F. Whitney (1855-1931)
Utah Woman Suffrage Association, 1895
JK1911 U8 W55 1985
Orson F. Whitney was part of the first generation of Latter-day Saints born in Utah. His family helped form the early church. His grandfathers were Heber C. Kimball, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and Newel K. Whitney, Presiding Bishop of the Church. His mother, Emma Mar Kimball Whitney, was an eloquent writer. His father, Horace, had set type for the earliest Deseret News and worked as a printer with the newspaper for more than two decades.
Whitney worked as a reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune and as an editor for the Deseret Evening News. He was called as bishop of the Eighteenth Ward in the Salt Lake Stake, a position he held until 1906 and his call to the Twelve. He married Zina Beal Smoot, daughter of Abraham O. Smoot and sister of Reed Smoot. He was sent to England to work as the editor of the Millennial Star. His returned to Salt Lake City just when the United Stated federal government was making a concerted effort to stop, once and for all, plural marriage. During this time, when church leaders had gone underground, he began speaking at Sunday afternoon meetings in the Salt Lake Tabernacle and became known for his orations. Whitney had a second wife, but kept her hidden from Zina Smoot Whitney.
The Utah Constitution was drafted at a convention that opened on March 4, 1895 in Salt Lake City. Seven previous drafts, the first in 1849, had failed because of the Mormon practice of plural marriage. The United Stated Congress refused to admit the territory until the practice was renounced.
The 1895 Constitution stated that spousal privilege was only for one man and one woman together, essentially outlawing polygamy. Another article was the approval of women’s suffrage and equality for women guaranteed in all matters.
On February 26, 2020, the Utah State Legislature passed a bill that reduces the level of offense for polygamy to an infraction, on par with a traffic ticket.
“It is woman’s destiny to have a voice in the affairs of government. She was designed for it. She has a right to it. This great social upheaval, this woman’s movement that is making itself heard and felt, means something more than that certain women are ambitious to vote and hold office. I regard it 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….We will crown the brows of the victor and say: “You were worthy to survive.’ — Orson F. Whitney