The Fourteenth Amendment and Women’s Rights

Before the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, three significant sectors of American society were not afforded their fundamental rights like the right to vote. The primary reason was because they were not considered citizens of the country. These sectors were the former slaves (Blacks), the Native Americans, and the women sector. After it was ratified in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment effectively benefited the African Americans but ignored the Native Americans and the women sector (Justice Learning, n. d. ).

Immediately after the civil war, when the slaves already gained their freedom from slavery, widespread violence erupted as a result of the racist practices resorted to by the white Americans in the Southern United States. It was a clear indication that the Southerners, in spite of their defeat in the hands of the abolitionist Northerners, were not yet ready to leave the era of slavery, with all its attendant luxuries, behind. Compelled by the result of the war, however, they grudgingly released their slaves but refused to treat them as their equals under the law.

In response to this racial violence against the newly-emancipated Blacks, the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was designed and finally ratified in 1868. It was felt that no less than an amendment to the constitution was necessary since law enforcers in the south refused to lift a finger in order to put an end to the racial violence (Women’s Justice Center, 2000). The 39th Congress proposed the necessary amendment to the legislatures of the 37 states on June 13, 1866.

By July 28, 1868, the Secretary of State certified that it was already ratified by 28 out of the 37 states, or three-fourths of the states, as of July 9, 1868. The nine remaining states ratified the amendment after July 9, 1868. Shown in the table below are the 28 states and the date they ratified the amendment. Source: Emory Law, 2006 The state of Alabama later ratified the amendment on July 13, 1868 followed by Georgia on July 21, 1868 (it rejected the amendment earlier, on November 9, 1866).

Virginia ratified the amendment on October 8, 1869, more than two years after initially rejecting it on January 9, 1867. The states of Mississippi and Texas, on the other hand, ratified the amendment on January 17, 1870 and February 18, 1870, respectively (Texas first rejected it October 27, 1866). The amendment was rejected in Delaware on February 8, 1867, but was finally ratified on February 12, 1901. It was likewise rejected in Maryland (March 23, 1867) but was ultimately ratified on April 4, 1959 – the same year that California did (May 6).

Kentucky was the last state to ratify the amendment on March 18, 1976, 109 years after it initially rejected it on January 8, 1867 (Emory Law, 2006). The Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to the emancipated slaves and as such, provided that they should be granted equal protection under the law. In effect, the ruling specified under Clause 3, Section 2 of Article 1 of the United States Constitution was amended.

Upon its ratification, the amendment provided that for the purpose of determining the congressional representation for each state, the former slaves would be counted as one person instead of only three-fifths as previously provided for. In addition, Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment expressly provided that “a state shall not violate a citizen’s privileges or immunities, shall not deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, and must guarantee all persons equal protection of the laws.

” As citizens, the African Americans, therefore, were granted equal protection by the Fourteenth Amendment (Justice Learning, n. d.). Unfortunately, this amendment excluded Native Americans from the grant of citizenship because of its provision that only those “subject to U. S. jurisdiction” should be considered citizens of the country. Since tribal laws governed Native Americans, they did not fall under the jurisdiction of the United States. In other words, they were not granted citizenship status under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Since they were not deemed citizens, they, therefore, did not benefit from the equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment. Native Americans were only able to achieve citizenship status by joining the military, by marrying American citizens, and through individual treaties entered into by their respective tribes. It was not until 1924, with the enactment of the Indian Citizenship Act, that Native Americans became legitimate citizens of the United States (Justice Learning, n. d.

). The Native Americans were not the only sector which suffered adversely from the Fourteenth Amendment, however. The women sector, which was already waging a struggle to gain their right to vote several decades before the ratification of the amendment, was also left behind. What delivered the crushing blow to their cause was Section 2 of the amendment which used the word “male” which, according to the advocates of the rights for women, “seemed to place in doubt the citizenship of females.

” The Fourteenth Amendment marked the first time, ever, that the word “male” was used in the constitution of the country. In essence, Section 2 qualified that only male citizens who were 21 years old and who did not participate in any rebellion were eligible to vote during elections (Justice Learning, n. d. ). Looking back in history, American women were treated with affront as early as the latter part of the 1700s. They were first deprived of their right to vote in 1777 in the state of New York and in Massachusetts in 1780.

The state of New Hampshire followed suit four years later, in 1784. Then when the states were authorized by the Constitutional Convention of 1784 to set down their own voters’ qualifications, women consequently lost their right to vote in all the states with the exception of New Jersey. Ultimately, even the women of New Jersey were finally deprived of their right to vote in 1807. In other words, by 1807, women all over the United States had already lost their right of suffrage (Timeline of Women’s Suffrage in the United States, 2008).