Research Showcase

Research Paper Abstracts, Spring 2012

Audet, Allison. “‘Let’s Talk About Sex!’ The Evolution of Women’s Rights in the Eyes of the Law: Abigail Adams to Reva Siegel”
Woman’s rights in the United States are continually evolving. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century women in America were dependent upon men. Women were oppressed through coverture and prevented from exercising the elective franchise. Women, frustrated by this oppression, endeavored to gain equality through attaining the right to vote. There was considerable resistance on moral, familial, and constitutional grounds to women attaining the vote. Through a long and arduous fight for rights, women gained the constitutionally protected right to vote through the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. Courts and legislatures were left to interpret the meaning of the Nineteenth. The Supreme Court in the Adkins case took an emancipatory view of the Nineteenth Amendment, stating that the Nineteenth, when read in the context of the history of the subjugation of women, granted women more than just voting rights. Shortly after the Adkins case, courts and legislatures retreated from this emancipatory view, opting for a very narrow interpretation of the Nineteenth Amendment — the Nineteenth only granted voting rights and nothing more. Today, the Nineteenth Amendment is virtually unused in women’s rights cases. Sex-discrimination cases are grounded in the Fourteenth Amendment, unconnected to the history of the subjugation of women. When this occurs, the emancipatory potential of the Nineteenth erodes. When the Nineteenth Amendment is read in the context of the history of the woman’s rights movement, equal rights for women in the eyes of the law already exist in the constitution.

Boosahda, Scott. “The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America”
What was the intent of the founding fathers in terms of private citizens owning, possessing and carrying firearms and what does the 2nd Amendment looks like in 2012? I analyzed several Primary and secondary sources and traced the concept of individual right to own, possess and carry a firearm for private citizens in the United States of America. I learned that the founding fathers intended for each and every citizen of the United States of America to own, possess and carry firearms legally. I also analyzed the connection of the 14th Amendment to the 2nd Amendment in relation to the Due Process Clause in the 14th Amendment under the premise of “all people”. The Primary and Secondary sources indicate that while writing the Bill of Rights the founding fathers intended that each individual would have the right to own, possess and carry firearms legally and without prosecution from any level of government. This study includes analysis of the two most recent Supreme Court decisions on the 2nd Amendment: Heller v. District of Columbia (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2011), both decided by a 5-4 margin that private citizens do have a right to ownership, possession and to carry firearms and not be affiliated with a Militia.

Burke, Newell. “Dennis v. United States 341 US 494 (1951)”
In Dennis v. United States, the Supreme Court sustained the constitutionality of the Smith Act, which proscribed advocacy of the overthrow by force and violence of the government of the United States, and upheld convictions under it. The main question I will try to research: Were the defendants in Dennis v. United States denied their First Amendment rights under the Smith Act due to anti-Communist hysteria?

Dennis and the other petitioners were convicted for (1) willingly and knowingly conspiring to organize as the Communist Party of the United States, a group whose members advocated the overthrow of the United States government by force and (2) willingly and knowingly advocating and teaching the duty to do the same. The constitutionality of the statute under which the Petitioners were convicted was challenged. Was the statute invalid by its own terms as it prohibited academic discussions on topics such as the merits of Marxism-Leninism?

The early standard by which the constitutionality of laws regulating subversive expression within the United States were evaluated was the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. The importance of the issues and the wide split of opinion among the justices require a careful analysis to determine what Dennis stands for. It also requires a review regarding freedom of speech prior to Dennis and an examination of the case in terms of what freedom of speech has stood for in the past and what it should mean in the future. Freedom of speech, protected against abridgment by the First Amendment, is not an absolute but qualified right (as Holmes stated [in Schenk], outlining the “clear and present danger” test).

The issue in the Dennis case is narrowed to the right to advocate revolutionary doctrines in private conversations or secret discussion groups. The Government did not choose to prosecute the defendants for the crime of seditious conspiracy; it did not assume the burden of establishing a secret plan of action by the defendants either for the purpose of furthering their professed philosophy through violence. Therefore the Government should not be permitted to rely on evidence which depended on conspiracy and treason, as a matter of law, to establish the crime of seditious conspiracy.

The Truman administration did not use the Smith Act against the Communist Party until 1948, after political pressure charged that Truman’s administration was too soft on Communism. During the Dennis trial the Communist party organized a campaign to stop the trial due to the harm that would come to working class gains that had been made. Judge Medina was influenced by his upper class background, and feared that the defense’s counterargument would ruin his health. The convictions came at a time when US foreign policy was becoming more aggressive, and by the time Judge Hand heard the case, the Korean War was starting. McCarthyism was at its height, both appellate courts abandoned the earlier “clear and present danger” standard that had punished for the advocacy of ideas, and went with a “gravity of evil” to be prevented.

Carroll, Sean. “The Development of the Right to Privacy”
Beginning well before the first shots were fired in the American Revolution, an extraordinary battle had begun far from our own shores. Across the Atlantic, in what was then the seat of government for the newly established English colonies, a fight began whose fallout would help ferment rebellion in the American colonies and lead it to develop an enduring set of guiding principles. It was a fight that at its core was about the right of the individual to be protected from government intruding on their privacy. Unlike many disputes between a people and their government, the fight for privacy was not as dramatic or as romantic as the fight against Taxation without Representation, but one whose struggle has created far reaching effects even 400 years removed from its conception.

Sir Edward Coke’s well known phrase “ A man’s house is his castle and fortress…,” coined in England’s Semayne’s Case of 1604 begins the battle between the right of the government to seek information and evidence through legal processes and individual’s rights to privacy. One Hundred and fifty or so years later, James Oits, American Statesman (and author of the phrase “no taxation without representation” used above), vehemently condemned English colonial policies, including their sanctions of general warrants and writs of assistance which denied colonists to any shred of privacy. The court ruled against Otis. However, because of the notoriety he had gained in attacking the writs, he was handily elected to the General Court of Massachusetts soon after. Otis soon became a leading figure in the American Revolution. His election to the Massachusetts General Court was instrumental in ushering through legislation protecting citizens from abusive intrusions into their privacy. It was from legislative acts such as these, at the state level, that our founding fathers look to for guidance in crafting out own national constitution and setting our nation on its journey to the freedoms we continue to expand today.

Degnan, Shawn. “‘A Civil Rights Milestone’: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
Brown v. Board of Education (1954) was the first step taken by the United States’ Judicial Branch to rectify the failures of Reconstruction and overturn the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decision that made “separate, but equal” and racial segregation part of public schools in the United States. Some historians feel as if the Brown decision was the start of the modern Civil Rights movement and others have credited the decision with being one of the most important Supreme Court cases of all time. The Brown decision, handed down by the Warren Court, should have lived up to such accolades, but unfortunately, it didn’t. The purpose of this paper is to analyze why Brown didn’t have the impact on American society that it should’ve had. Even if the desegregation of public schools ended up being followed, it might not have even changed race relations in the South. The first purpose of this paper is to analyze the Warren Court and its failure to clearly spell out the process for desegregation in public schools in Brown II. “All Deliberate Speed” allowed segregationists the ability to fight the system for many years after Brown v. Board. Secondly, by examining Eisenhower’s Civil Rights strategy, it has become apparent that he simply didn’t do enough to ensure that the Brown decision was followed by Southern school districts. Eisenhower’s policies did, indeed, help push through some Civil Rights advancements, however the legislation ended up being nothing more than watered down versions, with no real advancements in the Civil Rights cause. Nevertheless, Eisenhower continued to fashion himself as a Civil Rights defender. In regards to Brown, the President fell short. Lastly, I will explore the overall importance of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision.

Lapomardo, Lesley. “Did the Passing of the Patriot Act Preserve or Undermine the Founders’ Plan and Ideals for the Constitution?”
The passing of the Patriot Act of 2001 has posed various problems in the United States. Specifically, the effects on our society and security have become hot discussion points among liberals and conservatives. The question facing Americans is whether the Patriot Act is unconstitutionally and even necessary eleven years after the terrorist attacks on September 11th. After examining primary sources and scholarly essays analyzing the impact of the Patriot Act on civil liberties and the growing powers of the President it became apparent that the Founders’ ideals were not maintained in the passing of the Patriot Act and in its subsequent revival.

As a result of this research it was surprising to find so few primary source materials relating to a piece of legislation which is the source of such controversy. At times it felt as if the issue surrounding the Patriot Act and civil liberties is one which some are unsure of how to remedy the situation. Juxtaposed with the feeling that many truly believe that the American way of life is in danger of being damaged or destroyed, thus such measures are necessary to guarantee our freedom. To this end the research conducted barely skimmed the surface of the realities of the Patriot Act and our way of life in the 21st century.

Lynch, Michael. “Plessy v. Ferguson: Was John Marshall Harlan a Revolutionary or Conforming to the Law?”
In 1896 the United States Supreme Court decided to hear cases concerning segregation of races on railway cars. These cases were decided in the Supreme Court Case of Plessy v. Ferguson. The ruling was 7-1, in favor of allowing segregation on railway cars and the sole dissenting justice was John Marshall Harlan. Was Justice Harlan a revolutionary or was he conforming to law? John Marshall Harlan grew up in an environment where slavery was legal. He believed that slavery was immoral and yet he did nothing to stop it; he was even a slave owner himself. As a politician Harlan gave numerous speeches in favor of slave owners’ rights, arguing the Constitution stated that the slave owner had property rights where the slave had none. Harlan fought in the Civil War on the Union side. Why would a slave owner in a slave state fight on the Union side? Because as a true blue Whig even though the party had become extinct, Harlan’s belief in the Union and the Constitution as the law of the land were paramount over any material possessions. As the Constitution was amended after the war, so were Harlan’s beliefs. Even though at first he thought the Civil War Amendments were wrong, he became a true follower of the law. John Marshall Harlan was a product of his environment, a strong Unionist and a firm believer that the United States Constitution is the law of the land. His interpretation of the Constitution in the cases concerning civil rights is often characterized as being ahead of his time but it was in accordance with the rest of his life according to the law.

Mawson, Dave. “The New Deal: For Better or Worse, Changing the Role of American Government”
While President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs were not the first initiatives to create “big government” in the United States, the breadth of the programs and the speed with which Congress adopted them intensified this expansion. Several New Deal programs created a backlash that resulted in court cases that sparked a fight among the three branches of government – fueled by ideology and anger – that tested the American system of government. This paper focuses on the National Industrial Recovery Act and the Agricultural Act, two of the most complex and controversial of Roosevelt’s programs. Both were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, which led to Roosevelt’s so-called “court-packing plan.” Using several primary-source documents, the paper offers a detailed analysis of the constitutional challenges to the NRA and the AAA, as well as Roosevelt’s response. The result of these conflicts has been reflected in significant changes in the areas of labor, the judiciary and the economy that persist to this day.

Moylan, Kathleen. “‘Militant’ Nonviolence: The Successful Strategies and Tactics
of Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party”

This paper examines the nonviolent direct actions pursued by the National Woman’s Party under the leadership of Alice Paul in an effort to pass a woman’s suffrage amendment. The paper shows that these tactics successfully brought about Woodrow Wilson’s endorsement of the amendment. Though the NWP is often referred to as the “militant” wing of the suffragist movement—a term even they used to describe themselves–the suffragists employed classic nonviolent techniques such as picketing and hunger strikes in order to achieve their goal. The more moderate National American Women Suffrage Association usually gets credited for encouraging Wilson to support the amendment as a war measure, but this paper argues that the constant pressure provoked by NWP picketing forced Wilson to act. Using oral history interviews of Alice Paul and other suffragists, as well as New York Times articles, the paper shows that the NWP was organized around nonviolent principles, and that the suffragists’ single minded dedication to achieving women suffrage even during a world war was responsible for their success.

Plant, Angela. “Has it ever been about equality? Reconstruction, Civil Rights and the Image of America”
When one thinks of the United States of America, words such as democracy, liberty, justice and freedom often come to mind. The association of these words to this nation is linked to the founding of the country and the political philosophies that were bestowed upon its citizens. After the Civil War the nation attempted to piece together a fragmented country and grant greater civil rights to alienated individuals, this change in government known as Reconstruction was successful as well as unsuccessful in granting black Americans justice, freedom and liberty. President Lincoln was aware of the inconsistency that the Constitution created and aware that foreign lands were questioning whether this nation would live up to the promises stated in the Constitution.

The ongoing Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s attempted to finish where Reconstruction left off. The nation again was reminded that foreign lands were watching and waiting to see the United States Constitution uphold and meet the image that comes to mind behind democracy, liberty, justice and freedom. With the Cold War in full swing the U.S. actively began to court newly independent nations on the continents of Africa and Asia. Now the question was; would securing liberty, freedom and civil rights be done out of necessity to improve the image of America or would it be done to achieve equality?

Scanlon, James. “What is an American? Perception of American Citizenship and the Effect of Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II”
The purpose of writing this paper is two-fold. First, it is being written to bring light to the relationship between Americans’ consideration of citizenship in relationship to Japanese American Internment during World War II as a result of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The other purpose for this research and paper is to begin to form a foundation that will help me to prepare to craft a unit of study for High School American History which will address the Constitutional issues created by E.O. 9066 and the changes in the view of Japanese American Citizenship as a result of the victims of internments’ reaction to this treatment.

The question raised by this paper is first, what actions of the part of the Japanese Americans affected by internment influenced the perception of how they were seen as citizens and can the perception of citizenship change due to these actions? I have reviewed much of the literature, primary source documents, and Supreme Court Case decisions to draw my conclusions. In the end I have found that it was in fact the reaction of those Japanese Americans, especially during Internment, that influenced the ways that other Americans view then as citizens.

Swenson, Claire. “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Its relationship to Sexual Harassment within the Women’s Labor Movement”
This research paper is intended for an academic audience looking at the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a both a positive and negative impact on the Women’s Labor Movement. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (section 7) mandates companies to hire women. The positive is more job opportunities for women. The negative side is women entering male dominated workforces doing traditionally marked as “men’s work” and fellow male workers and community members being against these women’s presence. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 created employment for women in jobs dominated by males. Sexual harassment policies are a result of the American attitude of women working outside the home, specifically in male dominated jobs. The attitude of Americans prevents equality for women in the workforce, specifically in the area of sexual harassment. The Women’s Labor Movement makes progress based on the attitude of the female worker.

If we outline the women’s labor movement throughout history, we see that at various times women working outside the home were encouraged and celebrated in this country. For example, the Lowell textile mills recruited pre-married young ladies to come and work in the factories. The factories not only provide jobs, but housing and other supports for these young ladies. In both World War I and II women are encouraged to work fulfilling their patriotic duty. As we study these times and others as various groups of women joined the workforce, there has been both support and push-back. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed, companies hire women without a plan for this long term integration of male and female jobs. In companies like Eveleth Taconite Mine in Minnesota, women are brutally sexually harassed to the point of abuse because the male workers and community do not support their working or are prepared for the results of this federal regulation. Sexual harassment policies are mandated nationwide and training but this has not eliminated it. In all areas of work, different groups of women are being sexually harassed. Women’s Labor Movement continues to make progress across the job market in the United States because of the persistency of women themselves.