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The 19th Amendment and citizenship

What aspects of citizenship changed with the ratification of the 19th Amendment? Created by Kimberly Kutz.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] We're nearing the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment which says that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. This was the pivotal amendment that guaranteed the right to vote for women. But, as we've learned so far, having citizenship and having the right to vote don't necessarily go hand in hand. So let's zoom out a bit from the 19th Amendment and take a look at citizenship rights for women, both before and after the amendment. Back in 1868, when the 14th Amendment was passed, it guaranteed citizenship to anyone born or naturalized in the United States. White women had been considered citizens since the country's founding, but now, after the 14th Amendment, women of color born on U.S. soil were included among the ranks of citizens. But again, this didn't mean that women had the right to vote. In 1872, Virginia Minor, a resident of Missouri, attempted to register to vote and was denied. Her husband sued for them both because women couldn't bring suit in Missouri at the time. The Minors argued that the 14th Amendment guaranteed Virginia's right to vote, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court in 1875. In Minor versus Happersett, Happersett was the name of the registrar who wouldn't let Virginia register to vote, the court issued the ruling that the right to vote was not one of the constitutionally protected rights of citizenship. This meant that, for women to get the right to vote, they would either have to get individual states to permit women to vote or persuade Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution. Women suffragists pursued both of those strategies. And, by 1919, when Congress approved the 19th Amendment, women had full suffrage in 15 States and partial suffrage, meaning that they could vote in some types of elections but not others, in 20 more states. The 19th Amendment overturned Minor versus Happersett and ensured that women had the right to vote in every state. However, there were still ways that women's citizenship was limited. For one thing, a woman's citizenship status was very much tied up with her husband's. In the early 20th century, if an American woman married a non-citizen, she lost her U S citizenship. The reverse was not true. If an American man married a non-citizen, he remained a citizen. This was a relic of the legal doctrine of coverture, that a woman's legal rights were swallowed up by her husband's when she got married. In 1922, shortly after the 19th Amendment, the Cable Act started the process of disentangling a woman's citizenship status from that of her husband. But it wasn't until 1934 that all of the exceptions and loopholes were closed. Jury service was another arena where women's citizenship rights took some time to catch up to men's. Some states tied jury service to voting so that, when women got the right to vote, they became eligible to serve as jurors. But that wasn't the case in every state. So, even after the 19th Amendment, women had to fight for the right to sit on juries in more than 30 states. We tend to think of jury duty as something to get out of, if at all possible, but it's really an incredibly important aspect of citizenship. It ensures that people who are accused of a crime are tried by a jury of their peers. Not until 1968 did every state require women to sit on juries. So how important do you think the 19th Amendment was in gaining citizenship rights for women? What did it change and what didn't it change? And why is jury service so important to citizenship?