“The paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. And the rules of civil society must be adapted to the general constitution of things.” No, this is not Donald Trump’s latest Twitter rant; rather, those are the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bradley in a concurring opinion of Bradwell v. Illinois (1872). The Supreme Court upheld an Illinois law that restricted state bar membership to men. Denying the right to practice law was just one of the many ways by which women were lawfully subjected to discrimination in that era; the principal form of discrimination was denying women the right to vote.
The fight for women’s suffrage began at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, N.Y. — now the site of the rather inspirational Women’s Rights National Park — led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. The cause was taken up by characters like Susan B. Anthony and Jeannette Rankin. That fight led to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919 that the right to vote cannot be denied on account of sex.