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Minor v. Happersett

The "new Departure"

After the amendment's ratification and adoption, attorney Francis Minor--husband of Virginia Minor, the president of the Woman Suffrage Association of Missouri--argued that its section 1 was actually an advance for women. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment states:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Minor drafted resolutions explaining his view that the Constitution, as amended by the Fourteenth Amendment, now guaranteed the right of suffrage to women:

Resolved, 1: That the immunities and privileges of American citizenship, however defined, are National in character and paramount to all State authority.

2: That while the Constitution of the United States leaves the qualifications of electors to the several States, it nowhere gives them the right to deprive any citizen of the elective franchise which is possessed by any other citizen--to regulate, not including the right to prohibit the franchise.

3: That, as the Constitution of the United States expressly declares that no State shall make or enforce any laws that shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, those provisions of the several State Constitutions that exclude women from the franchise on account of sex, are violative alike of the spirit and letter of the Federal Constitution.

4: That, as the subject of naturalization is expressly withheld from the States, and as the States clearly have no right to deprive of the franchise naturalized citizens, among whom women are expressly included, still more clearly they have no right to deprive native-born women of this right.

Missouri's Woman Suffrage Association endorsed Francis Minor's resolutions, and by the end of 1869, they had been endorsed by the National Woman Suffrage Association. Stanton and Anthony published them in their newspaper Revolution, and at least 150 women in ten states chose to act on them.

They turned out to vote in the 1871 and 1872 elections. Some, including Anthony, were prosecuted for successfully voting; others, like Virginia Minor, sued their states or voting officials for turning them away. The Minor case eventually reached the Supreme Court.

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