Supreme Court features judicial history exhibit celebrating Women's History Month

8 March 2004

Supreme Court features judicial history exhibit celebrating Women's History Month

Contact: Beth Riggert, Communications Counsel
Supreme Court of Missouri
Desk: 573-751-3676
Cell: 573-619-2849

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Visitors to the Supreme Court of Missouri this spring can learn about the history of women's suffrage and gender discrimination through a six-panel exhibit now on display. The exhibit, devoted to understanding the "Quest for Equality," is part of "The Verdict of History" exhibit and is on loan for a limited time from the Missouri State Archives.

"The cases featured in this exhibit illustrate not only the important gender discrimination issues this Court has examined over the years but also Missouri's place in the movement to secure more rights for women," Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronnie White said. "In each situation shown, citizens of this state have called on their courts to address the denial of equal protection of the laws."

One such case is Minor v. Happersett, reflecting the women's suffrage movement in late 19th-century Missouri. Based on the 1865 state constitution, which stated that "every male citizen of the United States … shall be entitled to vote …," the Supreme Court of Missouri concluded that Virginia Minor did not have the right to vote because the state constitution only was intended to give the male "freedmen" the same rights enjoyed by other males in the state. In 1875, the United States Supreme Court upheld that decision, noting that it only could act upon a woman's rights "as they exist." It was not until 1921 that Missouri voters amended the state constitution to give women the right to vote in state and local elections.

Another featured case is State ex rel. Wood et al. v. Board of Education of the City of St. Louis et al., which involved two tenured female public school teachers whose marriages in the summer of 1941 were deemed resignations under a rule the city's board of education had adopted in 1897. The rule was challenged, and in 1947, the Supreme Court of Missouri struck down the rule as being unreasonable, arbitrary and in violation of the intent of the teacher tenure statute, noting that, although the policy "maybe have been in conformity with prevailing opinion in 1897," it must yield to the new.

The exhibit also features cases examining racial discrimination issues and will be on display through May. Call 573-751-4144 to schedule a guided tour of the exhibits and the 97-year-old Supreme Court Building, built with proceeds from the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.