The Wyandotte Constitution is the constitution of the state of Kansas, in United States of America. This constitution was the basis for Kansas being admitted in to the union in 1861. It abolished slavery and gave women certain limited rights. The women’s rights movement was considered a radical idea at the time. The Wyandotte Constitution was amended several times, and remained in effect as of January 2010.
The passage of this constitution ended the period known as Bleeding Kansas. During this time — from 1854-1861 — free-staters, or those who wanted to abolish slavery, fought bitterly with people in favor of slavery, called slave-staters, for control of the Kansas territory. Three previous constitutions, created by whichever group was in power at the time, were written prior to the Wyandotte Constitution.
In 1859, Kansas’ territorial legislature approved another constitutional convention. A total of 35 Republicans and 17 Democrats attended the convention at Wyandotte, Kansas. A new document was written and signed on July 29, 1859. Due to disagreements on several key issues, all 17 Democrats refused to sign it. The Wyandotte Constitution was ratified by popular vote on October 4, 1859 by nearly a two-to-one margin.
Clarina Nichols is credited with calling attention to women’s rights during the 1859 constitutional convention. As the official representative of the Moneka Woman's Rights Association, she was allowed to sit among the other dignitaries in the convention hall. Nichols was also asked to speak to the convention delegates about woman's rights.
Some delegates supported the idea of giving women the same rights as men, though the majority deemed this approach too radical to be accepted by the masses. In the end, the Wyandotte Constitution did give women the right to vote in school district elections, and the right to own property. Only white men were given full voting rights.
Another big change addressed in the Wyandotte Constitution was the size of Kansas. Under the three previous constitutions, Kansas’ boundaries were left unaltered, and the territory stretched far to the west. The western boundary was changed during the Wyandotte convention, making Kansas’ land area much more manageable.
After the constitution was ratified, copies of the Wyandotte Constitution were sent to the President of the United States, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. At first there was some opposition to Kansas joining the union. As several southern states seceded from the union over the slavery issue, opposition died away. President James Buchanan signed the bill, naming Kansas the 34th state in union, on January 29, 1861.