All of the examples below retain their original structure, spelling, grammar, and emphasis, even if they are not in keeping with modern rules.

Virginia’s address to the State Convention of Publishers and Editors

St. Louis, Missouri
May 1869

“Gentlemen of the Press: On behalf of the women of Missouri we appear before you to-day, believing that you hold in your hands the greatest power in the State. To you is accorded the privilege of being admitted to every fireside. You are the first and most welcome guest at our breakfast tables. To you is extended the trembling hand of the gray-haired grandsire and the mischievous fingers of the fair-haired child, from one extreme to the other. Over all you wield a powerful influence, either for good or evil. We ask you to wield this influence for our good, for the elevation of our sex. We make the same appeal to you as a body which we have made to many of you individually, to aid us in our great work of obtaining for ourselves the rights and privileges of citizens. If you are opposed to this, come out fairly and give us reasons for your oppositional sneers or compliments are not satisfactory to women who with narrow incomes and toil-worn hands are called on to pay taxes to support a government, which for duties and responsibilities, calls them citizens, yet denies them the privileges and immunities of such. When you carry the musket in defence of the state, we are taxed to buy that musket, we are taxed to support your government in every yard of ribbon we buy, the very income we derive from that instrument of death, the needle or sewing machine, is taxed to support your government; we are required to swear allegiance to your government; we are amenable to the law of treason; condemnation and assessment know no sex. If we are citizens, this is just, the burdens of the government should fall equally on all. After seeing these facts is there a man present who would expatriate the women of the State by denying that they are citizens and entitled to representation? The fourth article of the constitution of the United States, section two, says citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several states. If we are citizens (which no one denies) then are we entitled to all our privileges and immunities in every State, and the State should not restrict us; for we hold these privileges and immunities under the paramount authority of the Federal government and its courts are bound to maintain and enforce them; the constitutional laws of the State to the contrary notwithstanding. If this State can deny women the right of suffrage, and them an ‘inferior’ and degraded class, then is this clause of the constitution a taunting mockery to one-half of the citizens of this State; for the constitution of Missouri says ‘only male citizens are voters,’ thus by its very wording admitting women to be citizens, and as such I claim that we are entitled to the protection given us by the fourth article of the constitution of the United States. Not only have women voted in some of the States, but it has been decided by one of the justices of the Supreme court of the United States in 1825, in constructing this clause of the constitution, that the elective franchise is one of the privileges therein. But, gentlemen, we will not weary you with speeches or arguments. We are here to appeal to your justice: to ask you to alter this constitution of Missouri, place the women of the state where your God intended they should be, by your side, your equals in intellect, your ever reliable and faithful allies in the battle of life. Do this, and you will find that while a bountiful nature has with lavish abundance supplied to your State the richest mineral wealth, your elevated women will be your richest, your greatest treasure, for ‘her price will be above rubies.’”[1] 

Virginia Minor to the National Woman’s Suffrage Association Convention

St. Louis, Missouri

October 1869

“I believe that the Constitution of the United States gives me every right and privilege to which every other citizen is entitled; for while the Constitution gives the States the right to regulate suffrage, it nowhere gives them power to prevent it. The power to regulate is one thing, the power to prevent is an entirely different thing. Thus the State can say where, when, and what citizens may exercise the right of suffrage. If she can say that a woman, who is a citizen of the United States, shall not vote, then she can equally say that a Chinaman, who is not a citizen, shall vote and represent her in Congress. The foreign naturalized citizen claims his right to vote from and under the paramount authority of the Federal Government, and the State has no right to prevent him from voting, and thus place him in a lower degree or grade of citizenship than that of free citizens. This being the case, is it presumable that a foreign citizen is intended to be placed higher than one born on our soil? Under our Constitution and laws, woman is a naturalized citizen with her husband. There are men in this town to-day, to my certain knowledge, who have had this boon of citizenship thrust upon them, who scorned the name, and who freely claimed allegiance to a foreign power. Our Government has existed for eighty years, yet this question of citizenship has never been settled. In 1856 the question came before the then Attorney-General, Mr. Cushing, as to whether Indians were citizens of the United States, and as such, were entitled to the privilege of preempting our public lands. He gave it as his opinion that they were not citizens, but domestic subjects, and therefore not entitled to the benefits of the act.

In 1821 the question came before Attorney-General William Wirt, as to whether free persons of color in the State of Virginia were citizens of the United States, and as such, entitled to command vessels engaged in foreign trade. He gave it as his opinion that they were not, that the Constitution by the term citizen, and by its description of citizen, meant only those who were entitled to all the privileges of free white persons, and negroes were not citizens. In 1843 the question came before Attorney-General Legree, of South Carolina, as to whether free negroes of that State were citizens, and he gave it as his opinion that as the law of Congress intended only to exclude aliens, therefore that they as denizens could take advantage of the act. Mr. Marcy, in 1856, decided that negroes were not citizens, but entitled to the protection of the Government.

In justice to our sex, I must ask you to bear in mind the fact that all these wise Secretaries of State and Attorney-Generals, were men that made these singular decisions, not illogical, unreasoning women, totally incapable of understanding politics. And lastly, in 1862, our late honored and lamented fellow-citizen, Attorney-General Bates, decided that free negroes were citizens. Thus, you see, it took forty-one years to make this simple discovery. I have cited all these examples to show you that all rights and privileges depend merely on the acknowledgment of our right as citizens, and wherever this question has arisen the Government has universally conceded that we are citizens; and as such, I claim that if we are entitled to two or three privileges, we are entitled to all. This question of woman’s right to the ballot has never yet been raised in any quarter. It has yet to be tested whether a free, moral, intelligent woman, highly cultivated, every dollar of whose income and property are taxed equally with that of all men, shall be placed by our laws on a level with the savage. I am often jeeringly asked, “If the Constitution gives you this right, why don’t you take it?” My reply is both a statement and a question. The State of Massachusetts allows negroes to vote. The Constitution of the United States says the citizens of each State shall be allowed all the privileges of the citizens in the several States. Now, I ask you, can a woman or negro vote in Missouri? You have placed us on the same level. Yet, by such question you hold us responsible for the unstatesmanlike piece of patchwork which you call the Constitution of Missouri! Women of the State, let us no longer submit to occupy so degraded a position! Disguise it as you may, the disfranchised class is ever a degraded class. Let us lend all our energies to have the stigma removed from us. Failing before the Legislatures, we must then turn to the Supreme Court of our land and ask it to decide what are our rights as citizens, or, at least, not doing that, give us the privilege of the Indian, and exempt us from the burden of taxation to support so unjust a Government.”[2]

Virginia Minor to the Constitutional Convention
Jefferson City, Missouri

May 21, 1875

“In the excellent bill of rights [sic] which has been submitted to this convention for consideration it is said ‘that the existence of wrong for which the law affords no redress is a scandal to the government.’ Most fully believing that you will use your best endeavors to carry out this cardinal truth throughout the whole of your deliberations, we come before you to present the wrongs done by the existing constitution to the class of citizens to which we belong.

While all bills of rights affirm that all political power is vested in the people, and that powers not committed are reserved to the people, and the presence or absence of such reservation or committal distinguishes arbitrary from limited government, we ask you under what kind of government do one-half of the people of the state practically live, prevented as they are by her constitutions and laws from either committing or reserving any right whatever. Is it not to them an oligarchy or absolute despotism from which they have no appeal? It is puerile and an insult to the logical and practical common-sense of the 19th century to say that ‘people’ means ‘qualified voters.’ The question lies back of the qualification and can only be answered by the whole and not a part of the adult inhabitants; especially indicating all who are taxed for the support of the state. The very existence of any government depends on the moral and intelligent participation of every citizen in its responsibilities and privileges.

We are simply repeating history, and just as surely as we go forward in our present course our doom is written. We are following in the footsteps of republics of the old world which gave the franchise first to the patrician, then the people, and lastly to the helots, always degrading the women period. Now, where are they? They have reached the goal to which we also as surely hastening.

The ninth section of your proposed bill of rights [sic] says: ‘all elections to be free and open.’ Aye, free and open. I will tell you to whom they are open. Your laws have heretofore said ‘to all aliens who proposed to become citizens’—to the worshippers of Joss or the votaries of Voudou [sic],[3] to the felon from your prisons, the popper from your almshouses—to all these highly cultured moral statesman your election portals are thrown wide open. But to the woman of your own blood, however good or cultured, no matter how much taxes are wrung from her to support the state, to her the ballot box has been a very Gibraltar, which all her appeals to justice have failed to open.

We claim that this political right to vote belongs as much to woman citizen as does the land for which she is taxed. To withhold this right is to denigrate, to humiliate all womanhood. So inherent was this principle of taxation and representation in the mind of the founders of our government that they only allowed those to be represented who paid taxes, but the statesman of today have reversed this and the male pauper’s right to representation is protected by constitutional provisions, while the woman, taxed for his support, is disenfranchised by the same organic law.

All that we now ask at your hands is that you shall use but one weight and one measure and make your laws of apply equally to all citizens alike. We are indebted to your courtesy alone for a hearing before your committee, and when you submit, as you doubtless will, an amendment or provision giving the ballot to all adult taxpaying citizens of the state.

In making this demand we do not by it ask you to disenfranchise any citizen who now has the ballot. You will see the full force of our attainder, as under the law we have no representative in the convention, though taxed for its support. We are not admitted to plead our own cause before the very men who must decide our fate. Gentlemen, remove from us this badge of servitude, or if you refuse our prayer, then in the name of justice and manhood exempt our property from taxation, and do not compel us to support a government which thus degrades us.

Surely you do not realize what disenfranchisement means. Here the opinion of a member of this convention. I quote: ‘Disenfranchisement, deprivation of all political right, no punishment to be made, a pariah, no degradation to be stripped of all which makes us the equal of our fellow citizens no penalty.” ut it is the duty of the woman whom we have chosen to represent us here to place before you this subject and I introduce Miss Couzins as our representative.”[4]    

Virginia Minor to Citizens of Lincoln, Nebraska

Red Ribbon Hall

October 1, 1882

Text in brackets is to help the reader make sense of areas that were written in third person by the reporter covering the speech.

[I heard a conversation yesterday] “in which one lady expressed astonishment that the ladies of the convention would remain from home so long. We have left our families in the best of hands. Many of the women here have the noblest husbands in the world. And then we think the importance of the cause should outweigh all other considerations. You say that women do not want to vote. That makes no difference. It is your duty to vote, whether you want to or not, just the same as it is to sweep your house. [I once heard of] an abolitionist who took his slaves to Illinois to set them free. But the negros, instead of falling upon their knees in gratitude, expressed doubts as to whether they were any better than before and whether they were able to take care of themselves. But we know that it was justice. And so it is of the women who don’t want to vote. A lady told me yesterday that she had all the rights she wanted. Perhaps she has rights which do not really belong to her. Many men are so magnanimous as to give women more than they can legally claim. There is only one state in the union where a woman can dispose of her property without the husband’s consent. I have been told that this is not true in Nebraska, but eminent lawyers have told me that such was the case. We don’t know what the laws in regard to marriage are. I have experience of this fact in my own state which is said to be extremely liberal to women.

The denial of the right of suffrage will be destructive of our government. The fourteenth amendment was intended to have reference only to the negros, but it applies as well to the Chinese coolie and the Mexican peon. This places the ignorant person above the most intelligent woman in the land. The Supreme Court and all eminent jurists maintain this. I want you women in Nebraska to claim it as your right. Don’t beg for it, but demand it as you’re right.

Last night reference was made to the martyred Lincoln. But the most important saying of this great man was left out. He said that no state could exist half free and half slave. And yet this is the fact in Nebraska where men are free and women are slaves.”[5]

Virginia Minor to The House Judiciary Committee

Washington, D.C.

February 20, 1886

This is only a partial speech. The rest has not yet been uncovered by the author.

“I do not stand here to represent rich women but poor women. Should you give me the right to vote and deny it to my sister I should spurn the gift. Without the ballot no class is so helpless as the working women. If the ballot is necessary for man, it is necessary for woman. We must have one law for all American citizens.

The Supreme Court has half done the work. When my case came up, and I asked them that the same law should protect me as protected the negro, the court said, “When the State gives you the right to vote, we will perpetuate it; the United States has no voters.” I want to ask you one question. If there are no United States voters, what right has the U. S. Court to go into the State of New York, arrest Susan B. Anthony and condemn her under Federal Law?

Another decision of the Supreme Court said in relation to the Fourteenth Amendment, that the negro, because of citizenship, was made a voter in every State of the Union. The court went on to say that it had a broader significance, that it included the Chinese or any nationality that should become citizens. That court has said we are citizens. If the Chinese would have the right to vote if they were citizens, have not we the right to vote because of citizenship?

A third decision was in the case of the United States vs. Kellar in the State of Illinois. A man arrested for illegal voting was brought before the court; he was born abroad and was the son of an American woman. Justice Harlan held that because his mother was a citizen, she had transmitted citizenship to her son, therefore he had a right to vote. This right must have been inherent in the mother, else she could not have transmitted it to her son.[6]

Virginia Minor to the U.S. Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage

(Includes a note from Francis Minor)

Washington, D.C.

 January 24, 1889

“Gentlemen, in 1884 the chairman of your committee (Mr. Cockrell) declared “that suffrage belonged entirely to the States so long as no class of citizens were disfranchised.” I hold that women are a class of citizens in the different States who are disfranchised. But I am happy to say the Senator must have changed his opinion on that subject, because I notice that he has voted in Congress to take away suffrage in one of the Territories. He has gone far beyond the Constitution in taking away suffrage from the women of the Territory of Utah.

In opposition to the Senator Mr. Madison, one of the framers of the Constitution, declared, and left it on record, that ”should the people of any State by any means be deprived of the right of suffrage, they should appeal to the General Government.” He also goes on to say that “to have left this question to the legislation of the States would have been impolitic.” The wisdom of this prevision has been shown in regard to the suffrage given by the legislature of Washington Territory, where it has been taken away because of the plea that it was not secured on constitutional grounds.

Now, gentlemen, I wish to show you from this paper of Mr. Minor’s that we think woman’s right to vote is secured on constitutional grounds.


To the National Woman Suffrage Association:

You are again in session for the purpose of renewing your appeal to Congress to propose an amendment to the Constitution which shall forbid the denial of your right to vote on account of sex.

Twenty-one years have elapsed since you first made application for this purpose, and yet success seems as distant as ever.

For this reason some members of the association are considering the propriety of bringing the matter before the Supreme Court with the view of securing, if possible, a reversal of the decision in the case of Minor vs. Happersett, and I have been requested to state briefly the grounds upon which such an application must rest.

There is no impropriety or inconsistence in pursuing both methods at the same time.

It will be necessary to state a few general propositions.

Since the adoption of the fourteenth amendment “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the State in which they reside.”

This amendment for the first time admitted the negro race to citizenship. Men and women of the white race had always been citizens or members of the national body-politic. In that section of the Constitution we are now to consider, the term used is the “people,” but Chief-Justice Taney tells us that the words people and citizens are synonymous terms and mean the same thing. (Scott vs. Sandford, 19 Howard.) While our first Chief Justice, John Jay, speaking of the equality of all persons in political rights, said “the citizens of America are equal as fellow-citizens and as joint tenants in the sovereignty.” (2 Dallas, 472.)

An appeal to the Supreme Court, properly brought, would be based upon the ground that the right of suffrage is already established in the Federal Constitution, and is an essential privilege of all American citizens.

It is not conferred in terms upon any person or class of persons, but inheres in and attaches to a status or condition of being, which is expressed in the single word, citizenship.

Admittance to national citizenship, either by birth or naturalization, endues the person with the right. of suffrage; its exercise is regulated by law.

Mr. Madison, one of the framers of the Constitution, said: “The definition of the right of suffrage is justly regarded as a fundamental article of republican government.” It was incumbent on the convention therefore to define and establish this right in the Constitution.” (Federalist, No 52.) The right was so established in section 2, of Article I, in these words:

”The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several States, and the electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislature.”

This section consists of two clauses. The first relates to the right of suffrage, or the right to choose, vesting the right in ”the people of the several States.”

The second clause relates to the qualifications of the electors.

As every one knows, there is a wide distinction between right and qualification. A person may have the right to vote, and still not be what is termed a qualified elector for want of the necessary qualifications.

In this case the right is absolute and unconditional. No reference whatever is made to the sex or color of the elector. Citizenship or membership in the body­ politic is the only requisite. Neither men, nor women, as such, are referred to. Together they constitute the people, and the people choose. This second clause is thus in entire accord with the preamble to the Constitution, which declares: ”We, the people of the United States, * do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America,” retaining in their own control this most fundamental of all the rights of citizenship. The Constitution affords still further proof of the existence of this right. The fifteenth amendment, adopted eighty years subsequent to the original establishment of the right, declares that “the rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, or any State, on account of race, or color, or previous condition of servitude.” Thus expressly, and in terms embracing all citizens, the right of suffrage is recognized as an existing right. The sixteenth amendment that you ask for is couched in the same language except that in place of race or color the word sex is used. Now it is clearly impossible to deny or abridge a right that does not exist; and if the right of suffrage is not an existing right, then the fifteenth amendment is an absurd abuse of language.

In construing this, and the other recent amendments, the Supreme Court adds its testimony to the fact of the existence of this right. It said, “the negro having, by the fourteenth amendment, been declared to be a citizen of the United States, is thus made a voter in every State of the Union.” (Slaughter House cases, 16 Wallace.)

Congress also is committed to the same position. I have room only to give the title of the act. It is entitled “An act to enforce the right of citizens of the United States to vote in the several States of this Union, and for other purposes,” approved May 31, 1870.

Thus, in the most solemn manner possible, the Constitution, the Supreme Court, and the legislative branch of the Government are in accord in recognizing the right of citizens of the United States to vote as an existing right; a right established in the Federal Constitution, and derived from no other source. So much for the right; next as to qualifications.

The Constitution does not lay down any general rule applicable to all the States, nor undertake to prescribe qualifications for the Federal elector.

It was considered best to require him to conform to such as exist in the several States for State electors.

But this requirement by no means confers upon the States any power or authority over the right of the Federal elector; least of all does it authorize the States to defeat the right by imposing conditions with which the Federal elector can not comply. Yet, in point of fact, they have unlawfully disfranchised one-half of the “people” by the use of the word male. For the purpose of contesting the matter, and of making demand for the right, a white woman citizen of the United States, holding that her citizenship ought to avail to place her at least upon the level of the negro, applied to the Supreme Court to protect her against disfranchisement, and was refused, the court declaring that “the United States has no voters of its own creation.” (Minor vs. Happersett, 21 Wallace.) This decision is so manifestly in conflict with the Constitution, as well as with the court’s own ruling just quoted, that it is likely if the matter were again presented, the court would recede from its last decision.

The first century of our national life under the Constitution is about to close. To women it has been a century of injustice, since no wrong can compare with that of disfranchisement, and while we are singing pæons in honor of the great instrument it is well to remember that women had a share in the work. At that date, women voted in New Jersey at all elections upon terms of equality with men.

They voted for members of the constitutional convention from that State. They voted for the ratification of the constitution when submitted. They voted for the first, second, and third Presidents of the United States. The fact that women voted in one of the States was well known to those who framed the Constitution, and we must construe the instrument as they left it.

As before said, neither men nor women as such are alluded to. The clause establishing suffrage is so worded as to exclude neither, but to include both. So that, whether you succeed through the courts or through Congress, it will be due to the fact of your citizenship.

For the purpose you have in view, that word is to you the most important word in the language.

In hoc signo vinces, you should place on your badges and adopt it as a motto.


SAINT LOUIS, January, 1889.

I wish to ask the gentlemen of this committee, who are now acting for us in Congress, to leave to their children an inheritance they will not have to blush for. We want you to show that your prevision has been sufficient to look down the vista of the future and see what must inevitably occur. Fifty years ago a member of the Senate declared that the very mention of the subject of emancipation would never be admitted in the Congress of the United States. It was a woman’s prophetic voice that then replied: “You can build out the winds and hedge out the stars, but you can never keep this question out of Congress.”[7]

Petitions to National and State Legislatures

February 25, 1868

To the General Assembly of the State of Missouri

To the General Assembly of the state of Missouri:

Gentlemen: the undersigned, men and women of Missouri, believing that all citizens who are taxed for the support of the government, and subject to its laws, should have a voice in those laws and the selection of their rulers; that; as the possession of the ballot enables and enlivens the character of man, so, in like manner it would enable and elevate that of woman, by giving her a direct and personal interest in the affairs of government; and further, believing that the spirit of the age, as well as every consideration, justice and equity, require that the ballot should be extended to the female sex; do unite in praying that an amendment to the constitution maybe proposed striking out the word “male” and extending to woman the right of suffrage; and, as in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.[8]

June 1869

Petition to the St. Louis County Court

“The undersigned, feeling a deep interest in the proper treatment of female prisoners, accused or convicted of crime, respectfully request that in the new jail now being erected, provision may be made for the appointment of a matron to have charge of said prisoners, under the jailor that she be other than his wife or relative, and be required to make monthly reports to the court, and be paid for her services, and be subject to such other regulations as the court may deem proper.”[9]

March 1874

Memorial on Women’s Suffrage to the Missouri Legislature

“Believing that only those who enjoy the privileges of a government should be burdened with its supports, and that it is manifestly unjust to deprive one-half of the adult citizens of the State of the franchise, and at the same time require them to pay a full half of the expenses of the government, we do most respectfully pray your honorable body that an amendment to the Constitution may be proposed exempting from taxation all property, real or personal, owned by women in this State—in one county of which alone women own and are taxed on over $20,000,000 worth of property, and if ‘taxation without representation was tyranny’ in 1774, we are utterly unable to see why it is not equally so in 1874.”[10]

Francis Minor’s Suffrage Bill

Presented in the House of Representatives

April 25, 1892


Whereas, The right to choose Members of the House of Representatives is vested by the Constitution in the people of the several States, without distinction of sex, but for want of proper legislation has hitherto been restricted to one-half of the people; for the purpose, therefore, of correcting this error and of giving effect to the Constitution:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled: That at all elections hereafter held in the several States of this Union for members of the House of Representatives, the right of citizens of the United States, of either sex, above the age of twenty-one years, to register and to vote for such Representatives shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, or by any State, on account of sex.[11]

[1] “Convention of Publishers and Editors.”

[2] Stanton et al., History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 2, 410.

[3] According to Merriam-Webster, Joss is “a Chinese idol or cult image.” Voudou is an alternate spelling of Voodoo, a religion that mixes the West African Vodun religion with Roman Catholic beliefs. In using these terms, Virginia is clearly referring to Asian immigrants and African slaves. At the time, such terms were commonplace, but can today be seen as ethnic slurs that are racist.

[4] “Women’s Wrongs.”

[5] “Suffrage. Seeking the Ballot.”

[6] Stanton et al. History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 4, 78-79.

[7] Minor, Virginia. Statement before the U.S. Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage.

[8] Stanton et al., History of Woman Suffrage, Vol 3, 599-600.

[9] “Treatment of Female Prisoners.”

[10] The Andrew County Republican.

[11] Stanton et al., History of Woman Suffrage, Vol 4, 7-8.