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AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP RIGHTS OF WOMEN
CHAPTER I. WOMEN'S RIGHTS
A full appreciation of American women's recent citizenship victory is impossible without an understanding of the world-wide movement during the nineteenth century to liberate married women from the legal domination of their husbands and to grant them a legal status all their own.
Women have always had to fight for their rights, whether personal, civil, or political. At only one time prior to 1800, and that was during the later years of the Roman Empire, did they enjoy a status even approximating that of separate legal identity. Under the civil law of the continent a single woman was the ward of her father, and a married woman the ward of her husband. The common law of England was liberal with the unmarried woman, but not with the wife. In the eyes of the common law man and wife were one, and the man was that one.
Upon her marriage a woman's legal identity was submerged in that of her husband. The common law gave him all of his wife's personal property, and gave him the right to collect the rents and profits from her real estate. He could collect the debts due her. He was entitled to her companionship and services. If she worked for another her wages were his, and he could collect them from her employer. If she happened to suffer personal injury her husband could recover from the responsible person for the loss of her services. The American Colonies followed the common law of England and subordinated married women to their husbands. This situation was unjust. Women's first great fight began in 1800, when they started their campaign for independent control of their own property and for a legal identity. After a long and hard struggle, some of the States in this country began in 1856 to enact laws which gave married women independent control of their property and permitted them to become parties to contracts and to sue in their own names. Women's fight for a legal identity was won. But even then they by no means enjoyed a status of equality with men.
Just as women were meeting with their first success in this fight, the campaign for equal suffrage began. For a long time interest in woman suffrage lagged, and the campaign seemed doomed to failure. New life was given the movement, however, by the famous trial of Susan B. Anthony in 1872.1
In 1871, when the laws of New York gave her no right to vote, Miss Anthony voted at Rochester, New York, for a candidate for election to Congress. Accompanied by several other women, she
1 United States v. Anthony, 11 Blanchford 200; 24 Fed. 829.
went to the Board of Elections just before the election that year and demanded that she and the other women be registered as voters. She read to the election officials this portion of fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the state wherein they reside.
Then she told the members of the board that the provision of the New York constitution restricting the right of suffrage to "male citizens" was contrary to the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and therefore void. She warned the election officials that unless she and her friends were registered, she would have the officials arrested. Thereupon the ladies were registered and later permitted to vote.
After the election Susan B. Anthony was indicted, tried, and convicted in the Federal court sitting at Rochester for having voted unlawfully. The presiding judge instructed the jury that the privilege of voting is one conferred by the State governments only, and that they might restrict that privilege to whomsoever they pleased. The judge also declared that citizenship and suffrage are entirely different, and that while Miss Anthony was a citizen by birth in the United States, citizenship does not necessarily carry with it the right to vote.
A somewhat similar case arose in St. Louis during the same election campaign. Mrs. Virginia Minor went to the registrar of voters, Reese Happersett, and demanded that she be registered and permitted to vote as a citizen of the United States under the fourteenth amendment. Happersett refused. Thereupon Mrs. Minor went to court to compel Happersett to register her. She lost, and the case finally was carried to the Supreme Court of the United States.2 That court conceded that Mrs. Minor was a citizen of the United States and pointed out that women, like men, have always been citizens by birth in this country. Then the court held that citizenship and suffrage are separate and distinct, and that what should be the requirements for voting is a matter for the States alone to determine.
Citizenship and suffrage must not be confused. There are two kinds of citizenship-State and United States citizenship. In this book only United States citizenship is of primary interest. Under the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution a citizen of the United States also is a citizen of the State wherein he resides, but it does not follow that a citizen of one of the States, because of his State citizenship, also is a citizen of the United States.
Citizenship is the relation one bears to his or her government. Suffrage, on the other hand, is merely the right to vote.
The requirements for American citizenship and the rules regulating that relationship are prescribed by the United States, and not by the States. Citizenship may be acquired in a number of different ways. Mrs. Minor and Miss Anthony were citizens because they were born in the United States. It is an old principle of our law that all persons born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction of our Government are citizens. Ambassadors and other official representa
2 Minor v. Happersett, 88 U. S. (7 Wall.), 162.