The Waite Court (1874–88)

Voting Rights

The Waite Court rejected women’s rights to vote in what decision?

The Waite Court unanimously ruled in Minor v. Happersett (1874) that the state of Missouri did not violate the constitutional rights of Virginia Louise Minor when a state official named Reese Happersett denied her the right to vote. Minor contended that denying her the right to vote infringed upon her rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Court, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Waite, rejected her constitutional claim, looking at the tradition of women’s exclusion from voting. “Women were excluded from suffrage in nearly all the States by the express provision of their constitutions and laws,” he wrote. “If the law is wrong, it ought to be changed; but the power for that is not with us. The arguments addressed to us bearing upon such a view of the subject may perhaps be sufficient to induce those having the power, to make the alteration, but they ought not to be permitted to influence our judgment in determining the present rights of the parties now litigating before us. No argument as to woman’s need of suffrage can be considered. We can only act upon her rights as they exist. It is not for us to look at the hardship of withholding. Our duty is at an end if we find it is within the power of a State to withhold.”


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