When the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920, it was the first time women’s legal rights were specifically addressed in the U.S. Constitution. Women played no role in the document’s ratification in 1787. And when former slaves got the right to vote in 1870, it was a severe blow to the women’s movement. In later years, the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution in ways that include and protect women. But the battle for an Equal Rights Amendment continues. As part of our ongoing “Constitution Today” series, we delve into how the document addresses women and the role they’ve played in its history.


  • Barbara Perry Senior fellow and associate professor at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center for Public Affairs.
  • Michael Quinn president and executive director of James Madison's Montpelier.
  • Marcia Greenberger founder and co-president of the National Women's Law Center.

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