Law school by tweet: Minor v. Happersett


Law school by tweet: Minor v. Happersett


Law School by Tweet: Minor v Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1875)

Over and over in the 19th century, African-Americans, Chinese-Americans, and women asked the Court to find that the promises of the Constitution applied to us too. Over and over the Court refused. Thread.

One of those cases, Minor v. Happersett, is the frustrating, disappointing, inevitable conclusion of the New Departure. After the Civil War, suffragists tried to use the courts to prove that under the 14th Amdt, women were citizens, and voting was inherent to citizenship.

Virginia Minor, Susan B. Anthony, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, and many other women, white and Black, voted (or tried to) and sought to sue for their disenfranchisement.

Read more! πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡

The 14th Amendment defines who is an American citizen - which had no prior federal definition. In the absence of a definition, persons who were enslaved were not citizens, and the Constitution did not say how you could become one.

Enslaved persons were counted in the Constitution as 3/5 of a person. Why?

To benefit their enslavers with more seats in Congress and more votes in the Electoral College.

At the end of the Civil War, the Constitution was amended three times. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, the 14th Amendment defined citizenship, and the 15th Amendment said that race could not bar someone from voting. It did not say that only men could vote.

In 1874, Virginia Minor attempted to vote in Missouri and sued when she was refused. When the Supreme Court heard her case the ink on the 14th and 15th Amendments was barely dry. And yet, the Supreme Court can't seem to remember what they were for. Something about citizenship? πŸ€”

No, can't be - you ladies were already citizens! The 14th Amendment didn't change anything about your status!

The opinion is infuriating to read. It denies that the 14th Amdt did anything meaningful at all. Certainly not anything for Virginia Minor, a white woman from Missouri.

The decision is utterly ahistorical, and manages to erase women's massive legal disabilities and the history of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction all at once.

It also closed the door on using the courts to win the vote. Legislation was the only way forward. #Suffrage100 Feb 05, 2020


Daily Suffragist






Daily Suffragist, “Law school by tweet: Minor v. Happersett,” Daily Suffragist, accessed October 20, 2021,

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