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Minor v. Happersett

Significance

This case marked the second time in two years that the Supreme Court declined to extend Fourteenth Amendment protection to women's rights. Suffrage, the specific "privilege of citizenship" denied in the case, would not be obtained by women nationwide until ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.

As Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor pointed out, the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1868 "introduced sex-specific language into the Constitution: Section 2 of the Amendment, which dealt with the legislative representation and voting, said that if the right to vote were `denied to any of the male inhabitants' of a state aged twenty-one or over [emphasis O'Connor's] then the proportional representation in that state would be reduced accordingly."

Prior to the Fourteenth Amendment, the Constitution referred to the president as "he" but to all other Americans as "citizens" and "persons," without reference to their gender. But the Fourteenth Amendment's "sex-specific language" in section 2 excluded women and raised questions about women's citizenship. For this reason, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other nineteenth-century women's rights activists fiercely opposed its adoption. (Lucy Stone and other women suffragists reluctantly supported black male suffrage, regardless of the perceived cost to women.)

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882Minor v. Happersett - Significance, The "new Departure", A Constitutional Approach, All Or Nothing, The Fourteenth Amendment