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Women and the Constitution

By Akhil Reed Amar


In the 1780s, the United States Constitution was ordained and established by men. As a rule, women did not participate in the conventions that framed and ratified the Constitution. Women did not vote for convention delegates. And women-as women did not publicly participate in constitutional debates in the press, in pamphlets, and so on. To my knowledge, only one woman played a prominent role: the Anti-Federalist Mercy Otis Warren, sister of colonial lawyer James Otis (who argued the famous 1761 writs of assistance case) and wife ofJames Warren, speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Mercy Otis Warren wrote an important Anti-Federalist pamphlet in early 1788, but she hardly did so as a woman. She published it under an ungendered pseudonym, \u22A Columbian Patriot,\u22 which most contemporaries attributed to a man, Elbridge Gerry. (Not until the 1930s did Mercy Otis Warren finally win authorial credit for this pamphlet.

Topics: Law
Publisher: Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository
Year: 1995
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