MINOR V. HAPPERSETT, 88 U. S. 162 (1874)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 21 Wall. 162 162 (1874)

Minor v. Happersett

88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 162


1. The word "citizen " is often used to convey the idea of membership in a nation.

2. In that sense, women, if born of citizen parents within the jurisdiction of the United States, have always been considered citizens of the United states, as much so before the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution as since.

3. The right of suffrage was not necessarily one of the privileges or immunities of citizenship before the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that amendment does not add to these privileges and immunities. It simply furnishes additional guaranty for the protection of such as the citizen already had.

4. At the time of the adoption of that amendment, suffrage was not coextensive with the citizenship of the states; nor was it at the time of the adoption of the Constitution.

Page 88 U. S. 163

5. Neither the Constitution nor the Fourteenth Amendment made all citizens voters.

6. A provision in a state constitution which confines the right of voting to "male citizens of the United States" is no violation of the federal Constitution. In such, a state women have no right to vote.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, in its first section, thus ordains: [Footnote 1]

"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."

And the Constitution of the State of Missouri [Footnote 2] thus ordains:

"Every male citizen of the United States shall be entitled to vote."

Under a statute of the state, all persons wishing to vote at any election, must previously have been registered in the manner pointed out by the statute, this being a condition precedent to the exercise of the elective franchise.

In this state of things, on the 15th of October, 1872 (one of the days fixed by law for the registration of voters), Mrs. Virginia Minor, a native-born free white citizen of the United States and of the State of Missouri over the age of twenty-one years wishing to vote for electors for President and Vice-President of the United States and for a representative in Congress and for other officers at the general election held in November, 1872, applied to one Happersett, the registrar of voters, to register her as a lawful voter, which he refused to do, assigning for cause that she was not

Page 88 U. S. 164

a "male citizen of the United States," but a woman. She thereupon sued him in one of the inferior state courts of Missouri for willfully refusing to place her name upon the list of registered voters, by which refusal she was deprived of her right to vote.

The registrar demurred, and the court in which the suit was brought sustained the demurrer and gave judgment in his favor, a judgment which the supreme court affirmed. Mrs. Minor now brought the case here on error.

Page 88 U. S. 165

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