Volume 20
Issue 1
Winter '22

Mary Lou Graves, Nolen Breedlove, and the Nineteenth Amendment

Written By: Ellen D. Katz

Abstract

This close examination of two cases is part of a larger ongoing project to provide a distinct account of the Nineteenth Amendment. In 1921, the Alabama Supreme Court held the Nineteenth Amendment required that any poll tax be imposed equally on men and women. Sixteen years later, the Supreme Court disagreed. Juxtaposing these two cases, and telling their story in rich context, captures my larger claim that—contrary to the general understanding in the scholarly literature—the Nineteenth Amendment was deliberately crafted as a highly circumscribed measure that would eliminate only the exclusively male franchise while serving steadfastly to preserve and promote social hierarchies more generally, specifically those based on race and gender.

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