Ralph Waldo Emerson Self- reliance (1841)

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Main Points

  • Women declared their independence and inalienable Rights: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
  • “We insist that [women] have immediate admission to the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States.”
  • “…Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.”
  • Seneca Falls Convention, Declaration of Sentiments (1848)

Main Points

  • Men have created a social and political tyranny over women by not recognizing their civil liberties.
  • “He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.”
  • “He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.”
  • “He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.”
  • “He has withheld from her rights which are given the most ignorant and degraded men- both natives and foreigners.”
  • “He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.”
  • “He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.”
  • “In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master.”
  • …if single, and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.” 1
  • Seneca Falls Convention, Declaration of Sentiments (1848)
  • Horatio Storer, The Origins of the Insanity in Women (1865)
  • Mental disease in women results from a disturbance in their reproductive system.
    • “That in women mental disease is often, perhaps generally, dependent upon the functional or organic disturbance of the reproductive system.”
  • These mental disorders coincide with women’s menstrual cycles.
    • “That in women…mental disease is usually coincident with the catamenial [menstrual] establishment.”
  • Therefore, focusing only on the disorder is like only treating the symptoms. The disease – the dysfunctional reproductive system – must be cured to ensure a healthy patient.
  • “…it is just as unscientific here, and generally as futile, to treat primarily the mental disturbance, which is usually a symptom only or a consequence…”
  • Main Points
  • 1. His propositions:
  • Mental disease (insanity) in women is due to their reproductive systems.
  • Mental disease is made worse by menstruation
  • To treat mental disease (insanity) in women, you must believe the above theories.
  • 2. Storer wanted to cure insane women.
  • “The necessity of removing a cause to prevent or to cure its effect is as decided in mental pathology as in physical. We recognize it everywhere else; we must recognize it in the treatment of insane women…”
  • 3. Storer’s view of women was preconceived and warped.
  • “…they have become habitually thievish, profane, or obscene, despondent
  • or self-indulgent, shrewish or fatuous…”
  • Storer felt like women needed to be sheltered and protected. For them to have their own views and feelings was wrong. Being passionate or sexually aggressive was something that needed to be taken care of. Nymphomania was a term used only to describe obsessive sexual desires in women.
  • 4. As the weaker sex, women are more vulnerable to their passions.
  • “The attacks of this (sexual desire) were clearly coincident with the menstrual period, and so extreme that the patient could with difficulty restrain herself from soliciting the approach of the other sex.”
  • Upon treatment (removal of the ovaries, menstrual pain, potassium monoxide), the “morbid desires” stopped.
  • The sexual desires for men were normal, sexual desires in women had to be treated. Why?
  • The Origins of Insanity in Women, Horatio Storer (1865)
  • “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
  • Fourteenth Amendment to The U.S. Constitution:
  • Myra Colby Bradwell
  • Born in 1831 in Manchester, Vermont.
  • In 1852 Myra married James B. Bradwell, an Englishman who had immigrated to the United States and studied law in Memphis Tennessee.
  • In 1854, the Bradwells moved to Chicago, where James opened a law office and eventually became a judge of the Cook County Court.
  • Myra began to study law to help her husband as his assistant. She later decided to open a practice of her own.
  • In 1868 Myra founded a weekly legal newspaper called the Chicago Legal News. With Bradwell servicing as both editor and business manager, the Chicago Legal News quickly became a success.
  • In 1869, after passing the state bar examination, Bradwell applied to the Illinois Supreme Court for admission to the bar. The court rejected her application on the grounds that as a married woman she “would be bound neither by her express contracts nor by those implied contracts which it is the policy of the law to create between attorney and client.” She reapplied, but the court rejected her again, this time because she was a woman, regardless of her marital status. The Court ruled, "God designed the sexes to occupy different spheres of action, and that it belonged to men to make, apply and execute laws, was regarded as an almost axiomatic truth."
  • She appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1873 upheld the Illinois decision, saying that it could not interfere with each state’s right to regulate the granting of licenses within its borders.
  • James Bradwell
  • Myra Colby Bradwell
  • Myra Bradwell
  •  Bradwell v. The State of Illinois (1873), U.S. Supreme Court
  •  Main Point 1
  • (Majority Decision written by Justice Miller):
  • Citizenship does not give one the right, under the fourteenth amendment, to practice law in the courts of a state.
  •  “We agree with [counsel] that there are privileges and immunities belonging to citizens of the United States, in that relation and character, and that it is these and these alone which a State is forbidden to abridge. But the right to admission to practice in the courts of a State is not one of them. This right in no sense depends on citizenship of the United States.” p. 84.
  • Justice Samuel Freeman Miller
  • Main Point 2 (Concurring Opinion by Justice Bradley): Men and women are very different. Women are naturally timid and delicate and there are many occupations for which they are unfit. Man is woman’s protector and defender.
  •  …[T]he civil law, as well as nature herself, has always recognized a wide difference in the respective spheres and destinies of man and woman. Man is, or should be, woman's protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life. p. 85.
  • Justice Bradley
  • Main Point 3 (Concurring Opinion by Justice Bradley): Women belong to the domestic sphere, and should not adopt a career distinct and independent from that of her husband.
  • The constitution of the family organization, which is founded in the divine ordinance, as well as in the nature of things, indicates the domestic sphere as that which properly belongs to the domain and functions of womanhood. The harmony, not to say identity, of interests and views which belong, or should belong, to the family institution is repugnant to the idea of a woman adopting a distinct and independent career from that of her husband. p. 85.
  • Main Point 4 (Concurring Opinion by Justice Bradley): God has given women the role of wives and mothers. This is a natural law to which we must adapt, and not be persuaded by exceptional cases.
  • The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator. And the rules of civil society must be adapted to the general constitution of things, and cannot be based upon exceptional cases. p. 85.
  • Historical Significance
  • In the 1875 case Minor V. Happersett, the Court ruled against women suffrage in Missouri on the basis that the Fourteenth Amendment does not add to the privileges and immunities of a citizen, and that historically “citizen” and “eligible voter” have not been synonymous.
  • About a hundred years later, the Court began employing the Fourteenth Amendment as a way of overturning gender-discriminatory state laws. In doing so, however, it would typically use the "equal protection" clause, rather than the clause cited in Bradwell, "privileges and immunities."
  • In 1882, the Illinois legislature passed a law guaranteeing all persons, regardless of sex, the right to select a profession as they wished. Although Bradwell never reapplied for admission to the bar, the Illinois Supreme Court informed her that her original application had been accepted. As a result, she became the first woman member of the Illinois State Bar Association; she was also the first woman member of the Illinois Press Association. On March 28, 1892, she was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • In addition to her efforts to win admission to the bar, Bradwell played a role in the broader women's rights movement. She was active in the Illinois Woman Suffrage Association and helped form the American Woman Suffrage Association. She was also influential in the passage of laws by the Illinois legislature that gave married women the right to keep wages they earned and protected the rights of widows.
  • Bradwell died February 14, 1894, in Chicago, Illinois.

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