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Constitution Day

Slavery at Mount Vernon

Constitutional Status of Women


Mary B. Norton, The Constitutional Status of Women in 1787, 6(1) LAW & INEQ. 7 (1988). Available at:

Since married women and their daughters were legally subordinate to husbands and fathers and were perceived solely as parts of households, it is therefore hardly surprising that they were ignored by the drafters of the Constitution.

The reluctance of the Supreme Court to apply standards of "strict scrutiny" to sex-based classifications rests ultimately on the fact that the Constitution not only omitted all explicit reference to women, it also was drafted as though they did not exist as political individuals-for indeed they did not in the minds of the Founding Fathers. Slaves and Indians at least received some mention in the text of the Constitution, brief though the references were; and those clauses-as subsequently amended, in the case of blacks-later formed the basis for the expansion of the rights of minority groups. But women had to wait until the adoption of the nineteenth amendment in 1920 to be formally incorporated into the American political community.