(Crossposted from the American Constitution Society :: Columbia Law School)
From a certain point of view, Bradwell v. Illinois, 83 U.S. 130 (1873), is a forgettable case. In Bradwell, the Court builds on the Slaughter-House Cases, holding that the right to practice law is not among the Privileges or Immunities protected by the 14th Amendment.
What is memorable about the case is Justice Joseph Bradley's (wink, wink) concurrence in this 8-1 opinion.
Based on the undeniable power of this concurrence, I'm proud to announce that Justice Bradley has just won entry into the hallowed halls of the O.W. Holmes Jr. Man of His Time Club, a select club for bygone Supreme Court Justices who included startlingly pre-modern passages in their opinions. (Of course, Holmes's opinion in Buck v. Bell is offensive enough to install him as the permanent founding member.)
Here's Justice Bradley, concurring that the 14th Amendment doesn't prohibit Illinois from denying Myra Bradwell admission to the bar on the basis of her sex:
[T]he civil law, as well as nature herself, has always recognized a wide difference in the respective spheres and destinies of man and woman. Man is, or should be, woman's protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life. The constitution of the family organization, which is founded in the divine ordinance, as well as in the nature of things, indicates the domestic sphere as that which properly belongs to the domain and functions of womanhood. The harmony, not to say identity, of interest and views which belong, or should belong, to the family institution is repugnant to the idea of a woman adopting a distinct and independent career from that of her husband . . . It is true that many women are unmarried and not affected by any of the duties, complications, and incapacities arising out of the married state, but these are exceptions to the general rule. The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfil the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator. And the rules of civil society must be adapted to the general constitution of things, and cannot be based upon exceptional cases.
Bradwell, 83 U.S. 130 at 141.