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An Introduction to Constitutional Law » Bradwell v. Illinois

An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

The day after Slaughter-House was handed down, the Supreme Court decided Bradwell v. Illinois, its second interpretation of the scope of the Privileges or Immunities Clause.

Myra Bradwell was an aspiring attorney and editor of a legal newspaper in Chicago. She argued that the Privileges or Immunities Clause protected the right of “admission to the bar of a State of a person who possesses the requisite learning and character.” She noted that the Clause applies to all “citizens of the United States,” not just to men.

In Slaughter-House, the Court divided 5-4 on whether the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right of a male butcher “to exercise [his] trade.” However, the vote in Bradwell v. Illinois was 8-1. The female attorney, the Court held, did not have a constitutional right to “exercise [her] trade.” Chief Justice Chase was the lone dissenter.

For the Slaughter-House majority, Bradwell was easy.

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