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Bradwell v. Illinois

All Or Nothing

Bradwell appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Matthew H. Carpenter, a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, acted as her attorney. (Illinois did not send an attorney to defend its position.) He argued that Bradwell's Fourteenth Amendment rights had indeed been violated. He asked, "Can this Court say that when the Fourteenth Amendment declared `the privileges of no citizen shall be abridged,' it meant that the privileges of no male citizen or unmarried female citizen shall be abridged?"

If Bradwell's choice of profession or employment was not protected by this clause, Carpenter said, then neither was anyone else's. If no female could practice law, then neither could a "colored citizen." "If this provision does not open all the professions, all the avocations, all the methods . . . to the colored as well as the white man, then the Legislatures of the State may exclude colored men from all the honorable pursuits of life, and compel them to support their existence in a condition of servitude." Conversely, if the amendment does protect colored people, then "it protects every citizen, black or white, male or female." On the very same basis, Carpenter declared, the State of Illinois had no right to bar Myra Bradwell from the practice of law.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882Bradwell v. Illinois - Significance, The Marriage Disability, The Female Disability, All Or Nothing, God's Say So