On this day in 1875 the United States Supreme Court decided Minor v. Happersett. Virginia Minor, a Missouri resident, sued after she was prevented from registering to vote because she was a woman. She alleged that her Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated. A lower court didn’t agree, so she appealed to the Supreme Court. The Court affirmed the lower court’s decision, finding that limiting the right to vote to male citizens wasn’t unconstitutional. Chief Justice Waite wrote, “For nearly ninety years the people have acted upon the idea that the Constitution, when it conferred citizenship, did not necessarily confer the right of suffrage [the right to vote].”
It took until 1920, forty-five years later, for Congress to ratify the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote. See http://www.archives.gov/historical-docs/. If you’d like to learn more about women’s suffrage there’s an excellent video entitled One Woman, One Vote, narrated by Susan Sarandon, that tracks the long-fought battle. There are also many other excellent resources listed at http://www.nysba.org/women/. A particular favorite of mine, available there, is the transcript of Susan B. Anthony’s speech given after she was convicted of voting in the 1872 presidential election. She was fined $100.00.