How do we know what we know about the past? Take some time to have students share their answers. Most often when we want to learn about the past we start with a book. There have been many books written about the Woman’s Suffragist Movement. We read about Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, or Julia Ward Howe as the leaders of the movement. However, until now have you ever heard of Virginia Minor as an important participant in the Suffragist movement? She is just one of many women and men that used their rights as citizens to help bring about change. In the next activity we will use primary sources to learn more about Virginia and Francis Minor. Primary sources are records or evidence of the past created in the past. They are a first hand account of the past. Primary sources include such things as diaries, photographs, letters, newspapers, and even house-by-house census manuscripts provide personal points of entry into history. These historical records exist everywhere. By digging deeper into your own local history you might meet an admirable activist in your own community. Share the following news articles with students and ask the following questions.
Based on these clippings, what are the facts we know about Virginia Minor? Based on these clippings, how do you think others in the community viewed the Minors and their case?
DETERMINED TO VOTE (Transcript of the article) The Woman-Suffragists Again Moving on the Ballot Box. A Rejected Applicant for Registration Falls Back upon the Courts. Mrs. Francis Minor, a lady prominently identified with the woman suffrage movement in St. Louis, appeared before the registering officer in the west end of the Sixth Ward yesterday and demanded that her name be entered upon the lists as a voter. Mr. Happersett, the registrar, was then thrown into an awkward dilema and scarcely knew what to do or say. He was gallant enought to have acquiesced, but the law of the State authorized him to register only males. Mrs. Minor, who was accompanied by her husband, claimed the right to vote under the provisions of the Fourteenth amendment, but Registrar Happersett firmly but politely declined. The disappointed applicant then withdrew, declaring her intention to contest the matter, even though she should be compelled to carry the matter to the highest court in the land. Mrs. Minor is a lady of the highest respectability, and belongs to a class of reformers who would not stoop to any such action for the sake of creating a sensation. It is very evident that a good deal more is inteneded than at first appears. It will be remembered that two years ago theleaders in the movement here, were just at the point of making a test case and carrying it up to the highests courts, but were unable to decide who should be made the victim in the test. At that time, Hon. Albert Todd, Judge Drum and other prominent lawyers were convinced of the legality of woman suffrage, and were prepared to conduct the case. In brief, the argument is that women are citizens under the constitution, and that the Fourteenth amendment confers upon them as citizens the right of suffrage. It is probable that the action of Mrs. Francis Minor is intended as the preliminary step toward a test case in the courts.
MRS. MINOR’S CASE (Transcript of the article) The Woman Suffrage Question to be Tested in the United States Supreme Court Mr. And Mrs. Francis Minor will enter a suit for damages in the Circuit court on Saturday, the 9th instant, against the registrar of the Western precinct of the Sixth Ward, who refused to register Mrs. Minor a few days ago. The papers have been prepared with great care, and the case will be pushed through the Circuit court at its next term. It is expected that a decision adverse to the plaintiffs will be rendered and in that case it will go before the State Supreme court at the March term and thence up to the Supreme Court of the United States. The case for the prosecution will be argued by Judge Krum and Mr. Francis Minor. The Hon. Albert Todd is in full sympathy with the prosecution, and will probably add his legal experience as counselor and adviser, but in accordance with a resolution formed some time ago, he will not go into the courts with attorneys for the prosecution.
WOMEN’S RIGHTS. (Transcript of the article) A Meeting or the Faithful, but Woful Dearth of Zeal Between twenty and thirty women of progressive and aggressive ideas assembled in the directors’ room of the Mercantile Library, yesterday afternoon to perpetuate the existence of the St. Louis Suffrage association. Mrs. Hazzard was made chairman, and Miss Jennie Walbridge secretary. It was reported that the committee of Arrangements had provided for a couple of essays from Mr. O. S. Baker and Mrs. A.O. Grubb. Mr. Baker explained that he had made a mistake in the day and was unprepared. Mrs. Grubb, however came forward promptly and read a racy and graceful essay upon what women had done for the world and the position they ought to have. As soon as she had concluded, Mr. Baker attempted to atone for his negligence by criticizing the production, whereupon Mrs. Case, Mrs Hazzard, Miss Noa and several others pitched into him in fine style. J.M Dutro healed the breach by explaining to the ladies what Mr. Baker meant and to Mr. Baker what the ladies meant. Several others arose and explained these explanations, after which the meeting was adjourned. It was a rather lukewarm affair, and the TIMES’ reporter missed the vivacity and spirit which used to characterize the meetings of the suffragists when Phoebe Couzins was one of them.
The Minors used a primary source for the basis of their arguments. Ask students if they remember the source they used in their trial? Francis Minor used the 14th Amendment to the Constitution to argue his wife’s case. Share excerpts below with students and use the following prompts to begin a discussion. You Decide According to the law, should Virginia Minor have been allowed to vote? Take a vote among your students. Allow those who are willing to explain their decision and try to convince others to see their point of view.
14th 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 wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunitie 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.
Francis Minor’s Argument to the United States Supreme Court “Among the privileges, that of voting is the highest and greatest. To an American citizen there can be none greater or more highly to be prized; and the preservation of this privilege to the citizens of the United States respectively is, by this amendment, placed under the immediate supervision and care of the government of the United States, who are thus charged with its fulfillment and guaranty. By ratifying this Amendment the several States have relinquished and quit-claimed, so to speak, to the United States, all claim or right on their part, ‘to make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States.’ The State of Missouri, therefore, is estopped from longer claiming this right to limit the franchise to ‘males’, as a State prerogative.
- Francis Minor, representing Virginia Minor
You Decide According to the law, should Virginia Minor have been allowed to vote? Take a vote among your students. Allow those who are willing to explain their decision and try to convince others to see their point of view.
The Minors devoted their lives to the cause of women’s suffrage. What causes are you passionate enough about to make major sacrifices in your own life? What sacrifices would you be willing to make for these causes? What actions would you take to make changes for your cause? Virginia Minor, like many other Suffragists, practiced their First Amendment right to protest. Protests and marches often featured parades with banners and signs promoting their cause. Enjoy this photograph of a Suffragette Parade, March 3, 1913, Washington, D.C.
Use the following images to design your own protest banners