In observance of Constitution Day, Joyce McConnell, dean of the West Virginia University College of Law, will present “Remember the Ladies: The History of Women and the U.S. Constitution” on Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 12 p.m. in the Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom at the WVU Law Center. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend.
“Constitution Day gives us the opportunity to discover more about what is, perhaps, the most historically significant legal document in the United States and some would say, in the world,” said McConnell.
McConnell uses the theories of well-known scholars to categorize women’s Constitutional history into three chapters: neglect and silence, active exclusion and long-term interpretive struggle for rights and equality.
She points out that the rights of women are not included in the Constitution and there is evidence that one of its primary authors, Thomas Jefferson, purposefully excluded women. This was in spite of the best efforts of Abigail Adams, the wife of Founding Father John Adams. In 1776, she urged her husband, to “remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors” when drafting the new nation’s code of laws.
“Equality is not woven into the fabric of the Constitution,” said McConnell. “Women were not included and changing this has been a slow process with some of the most significant legal rights for women being granted in the past 50 years.”
Former West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd (1917-2010) sponsored the legislation that established Constitution Day in 2004. The law requires that all publicly funded educational institutions provide special programming on or near that day every year. The College of Law hosts an annual event that fulfills that responsibility for WVU.
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CONTACT: James Jolly, College of Law