When the US Constitution was adopted, the liberating rights so highly praised in popular history applied to a small minority of Americans, perhaps no more than 10% of the population. No Native Americans were counted to be "persons" in the eyes of the new Constitution. Nor were Black Americans, nor propertyless White Men. One excluded group of people crossed all racial and class lines. Women had no legal standing, and were extended no protections nor rights by the Constitution.
Suffrage -- Vote for Women.bmpAggitation for inclusion of Women began even before the document was written. Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John, even before the Philadelphia Convention proceeded to overthrow the First Constitution (Articles of Confederation) behind closed doors:
"I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.
"That your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute; but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up -- the harsh tide of master for the more tender and endearing one of friend."
Abigail's assessment of the natural tendencies of men proved all too true. A century and more of struggle was required before women were permitted to participate in the electoral process. Thirty five years before Women were recognized to be "persons" in the eyes of the Constitution, corporations had been granted "personhood" by the Courts.
Today, the right to gender equality remains only a partially attained goal of the Women's Movement.
On the Equality of the Sexes -- Judith Sargent Murray in 1790, wrote a "scandalous" essay denying the Biblical assertion of the inferiority of women to men.
Society Encourages Low Self-Esteem, Especially in Women -- Judith Sargent Murray in 1784, published "Desultory Thoughts Upon the Utility of Encouraging a Degree of Self-Complacency, Especially in Female Bosoms" in Gentleman and Lady's Town and Country Magazine. Following a harsh public reaction, she was never invited to publish there again.
The Seneca Falls Declaration, 1848 -- More than suffrage, the Declaration signed at the 1848 Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York demanded gender equality.
Women's Half Century of Evolution -- Susan B. Anthony in 1902, on the struggle for Women's rights, 18 years before adoption of the 19th Amendment.
75 Suffragists -- a listing of some of the most influential women in the struggle to have women recognized as "persons" under the US Constitution.