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Most important, such a Commission can deal with the highly complex problem involving so many laws already on the statute books in a systematic, realistic
The equal-rights amendment is a "broadly framed panacea for an exceedingly complex problem, and it represents a certain threat of confused and limitless litigation which would result in a net loss for women
augmented to the extent of whatever progress could have been made in the meantime under the policy of meeting specific ills with specific bills,” to quote William S. Roach in the Connecticut Bar Journal, September 1947.
H. R. 2007 seeks to protect the gains that have been made through the hard-won right to vote, while preparing to go forward to new goals for which we have only now, after a hundred years, just begun to fight.
The women's status bill, whether it does or does not pass in this Congress, will be a major issue in the 1948 campaign for millions of American women, individually and through their organizations. They are determined, while holding to what is good and already within their grasp, to press on until they have achieved full and genuine equality in law and in fact.
STATEMENT BY HON. MARY T. NORTON IN REGARD TO EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN
BEFORE SUBCOMMITTEE OF HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, EIGHTIETH CONGRESS
Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I introduced the women's status bill because it is an answer to the long confusion which has existed in the field of women's rights. We are all conscious that some discriminations against women exist in the United States, and I am sure we all agree that means should be found to eliminate them. The only proposal which has had serious support up to last year had been the equal-rights amendment. For many years I was opposed to this amendment because I feared, and I still fear, that its language is so vague that it will create confusion and misunderstanding.
Reasonable distinctions in law are needed to equalize the burdens and responsibilities women carry as mothers and as workers. The status bill is a practical instrument to evaluate such needs, establish reasonable standards, and make recommendations. It sets a policy and provides for a commission study of our laws and practices. No such authoritative survey has ever been made in the United States. It is high time we did it. I am told that, incidentally, the results of such a study may also have international value. Women in the United States already have many rights not yet attained by their sisters in some other countries, and such an evaluation here will be useful in comparing experience.
I am particularly impressed by the fact that the status bill can get results and can get them promptly. Within our own Federal establishment its effect would be immediate, for it calls on agencies to review their administration and adjust to the policy at once unless prevented by law. The report from the commission might well be expected within a year, and it can be a basis for wise legislation by Congress. Careful provision is made to furnish this report to the responsible officials in each State, and State legislatures are urged also to remove unjust discriminations on their laws. This is a practical plan which permits the States full freedom as to their decisions but assures them access to the information obtained through the Federal effort. The status bill therefore encourages follow-up more rapidly than would be possible under the equal-rights amendment. It avoids the long process of State ratification, which in itself would require much local agitation and exhaust the energy of leaders whose time and energy could be better spent on the specific changes needed in their localities.
However, if the Commission set up under the status bill finds reason to do so, it may itself recommend a constitutional amendment. The bill contains nothing to deny it this opportunity. I have been asked by several persons whether this possibility in the status bill satisfies the planks in the Democratic and Republican platforms on equal rights for women. Both these planks refer to equal rights in terms of an amendment. Just what the language of that amendment should be is not specified and the situation is confused by references in the same planks to other matters, such as equal pay, which the wording of the present amendment proposal does not cover. There is no doubt in my mind that what the people of the United States want in this field is some prompt action to get rid of discrimination, and that the objective is an intelligent program, an amendment, if necessary, but in any case a plan that can be effective promptly. I believe therefore that we
need expert study before we can arrive at a clear proposal. The Commission set up in the status bill can furnish us with this. From that point of view these two proposals are not alternatives but are rather different approaches to the same end. I therefore believe that, for the present at least, we should concentrate attention on the status bill, which has not before had hearings before Congress, and support it as a means of uniting efforts to clear up this discrimination problem and achieve a real success.
It is sometimes assumed that equal rights is a subject of interest primarily to women. Since the committee conducting this hearing is composed entirely of men, I think I should give you a little history that shows how false this premise is. In reality, progress in this field has been due as much to men as to women. You know it was just about a hundred years ago that the votes-for-women movement got started in this country. It began up at Seneca Falls in New York, in a little conference called by four women. One of these was Lucretia Mott, and another was Elizabeth Cady Stanton. They assumed that their meeting would be attended only by ladies, but when the crowd gathered, it discovered that a goodly number of gentlemen jad also arrived. The ladies held a hurried discussion and decided that it would be embarrassing to ask the men to leave, and they might be better off to have the men present after all. In the end the meeting was called to order by a man, who presided over the gathering, and the resolutions adopted were signed by a good proportion of both sexes. One of these resolutions advocated woman's suffrage. It is recorded that the ladies felt this demand would make them ridiculous, but the men persisted and persuaded them to include the vote among the objectives. It is quite possible, therefore, that the women of today owe their political rights as much to the men of that period as to the women. I therefore feel no apology in claiming your attention for the women's status bill, and regard it rather as a good augury that this hearing is being conducted by a group of my male colleagues.
Mr. Chairman, before introducing this measure I raised a number of questions in regard to it. The answers were so helpful that I would like to have them incorporated as part of my statement. I understand that a later speaker will insert a list of the 35 national organizations which support the status bill. They include women's, labor, and civil groups which are representative of the most serious thinking elements in our country. I am proud to be associated with them in sponsoring the women's status bisl.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON H. R. 2035
1. Are there discriminations against women in the United States?
Yes. There are still some discriminations against women. Some are in law; for instance, 16 States deny women the right to trial before juries on which women may serve; many States place limitations on a married woman's right to choose her own domicile and some restrict control of property. More are matters of custom and practice. Examples: The conventional family choice is generally for men as doctors and lawyers; some employers discharge women employees when they marry.
2. Are all distinctions on the basis of sex bad?
No. Many distinctions are to the advantage of society and to both men and women.
Examples: Maternity benefits; widow's pensions; minimum age for legal marriage lower for women (girls mature earlier than boys) ; laws making family support the responsibility first of the husband.
3. If women had “equal rights,” would their status problems be solved? No. The terms "equal" and "rights” are both so vague that they are no longer of much value. Before women could vote, “equal rights" was commonly understood as applying to suffrage. Many of the distinctions that remain today do not have simple answers and the old phrase is confusing.
4. What is the purpose of the proposed bill on the status of women? To end unfair discriminations against women in law and practice. 5. What are its principal provisions? (1) A declaration of legislative policy for the United States-no distinctions on the basis of sex except such as are reasonably justified by differences in phyical structure, biological, or social function.
(2) A commission, to be appointed by the President, to review the present status of women in the United States-civil, economic, social, political-and including discriminations based on sex, and to make legislative recommendations.
(3) All Federal agencies to conform to policy at once (so far as existing laws permit).
(4) States urged to declare a similar policy and conform their laws and practices to it.
6. Isn't there enough information around already?
No. Distinctions between men and women in Federal and State laws hare been listed in congressional hearings and in legal studies. Some of these distinctions are good and some bad. It is to evaluate these that a commission is needed. · No such evaluation has been attempted in our United States history.
7. Is the women's status bill a substitute for the equal-rights amendment ?
No. It is an entirely new approach. It is designed to rectify specific laws and practices at appropriate Federal, State, and local levels.
8. How about time? Which will be faster?
The legal-status bill. This bill provides that immediately upon passa ge by Congress (majority vote) the proposed policy will be effective for the Federal Government, which must immediately reform administrative practices insofar as laws permit; the Commission must report within a year its recommendations for further legislation needed ; States are urged to prompt action.
For an amendment, congressional approval (two-thirds of both Houses is only the first step; it must then be ratified by 36 States (no one knows whether 36 will), 3 years must elapse; if States have not revised laws to match, such laws must then be challenged by individual citizens in the courts and specific rectification be sought in State legislatures or Congress.
9. But isn't an amendment more permanent than a law?
No. The eighteenth amendment (Prohibition) was adopted in 1919, repealed 1933, and failed of enforcement through much of this period. Fundamentally, correction and enforcement of specific laws, and customs as well, can go forward only so rapidly as the local population believes in such changes. Information is the first essential for this, and the Commission provided by the status bill can furnish it.
10. Does the status bill preclude an amendment?
The bill follows the direct "specific bills for specific ills" procedure, for which an amendment to the Constitution is not necessary. However, this Commission is free to recommend an amendment to the Constitution as one phase of the rectification of Federal and State laws if it finds reason to do so.
11. Do women workers need minimum-wage laws, legal legislation of hours of work, and similar legislation?
The so-called “protective laws” are designed to give women a more nearly equal chance to get jobs and protect their position in the working world ; in other words, to equalize women's bargaining power as gainful workers. Most wage earners feel the need of minimum-wage, maximum-hour, and similar laws, especially for women, since there are large numbers of unorganized women in the labor market and the traditional pay scales for women tend to be lower, thereby making them potential wage cutters.
12. How about equal pay?
The Commission would be expected to study this issue and make recommendations. Contrary to some assumptions, the proposed equal-rights amendment would not bring equal pay. Specific legislation is required, both State and Federal, for equal pay.
REMARKS OF HON. FRANCES P. BOLTON, CONGRESSWOMAN OF THE TWENTY-SECOND
Mr. Chairman, I am happy to have an opportunity to testify to my sense of rightness and sanity of the bill which is before you. The whole matter of the position of women before the law has become one of the steps toward the freedom envisioned by the United Nations. As signatories, we Americans must move in the direction of equal opportunity and equal legal status,
For many years there has been introduced into each succeeding Congress an amendment that proposes to set up equal rights. I have never been able to agree with this particular suggested solution.
A year ago a bill was introduced to set up a Commission to study the situation. Such Commission would make a very careful study of the status of women and report back. Frankly, I like to act upon facts that have been arrived at only after careful and judicious study. I want to know first just what discriminations do exist, as well as secure definite knowledge of the standards involved. I would regret a course of action which would fall short of the real goal.
Once the facts are collected, the different States will have a sound basis on which they may proceed to bring their laws into accord with the expressed desire of the United States as a member of the family of nations. It is, therefore, my hope that this honorable committee will report favorably H. R. 2007.
New York, February 13, 1948. Hon. John M. ROBSION, Chairman, House Judiciary Committee,
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. MY DEAR MR. ROBSION: I greatly favor the women's status bill, H. R. 2007, as setting up the surest and soundest means of dealing with the present legal discriminations against women.
I believe this bill approaches this Nation-wide problem with a far more realistic program than does the equal-rights amendment. May I ask that my statement be included in the written record ? Yours very truly,
SARAH GIBSON BLANDING.
WASHINGTON, D. C. March 8, 1948. Hon. CHAUNCEY W. REED, Chairman, Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee,
House of Representatives, Washington 25, D. C. DEAR MR. REED: As the records of previous hearings indicate, the Women's National Homeopathic Medical Fraternity has always been opposed to the socalled equal-rights amendment. The situation in regard to this amendement has not changed, and I want at this point to reiterate the importance we attach to its dangers.
As doctors, we are naturally concerned for the best possible uses of scientific progress in relation to the health of all persons, including women. Women, because of their different physical structure, require medical services and treatment of many types different from men. Their life span and physical experience also differs in many other ways. The services required for maternity care are only a part of the range of special medical attention which women should have. It therefore seems to us that our laws and our law-making bodies should be in a position to make full use of new discoveries and new resources for the welfare of the health of women throughout their lives.
The language of the equal-rights amendment is so vague that it is not clear what legal distinctions, if any, would be considered constitutional under it. The Women's National Homeopathic Medical Fraternity has always favored equal status for women and the greatest possible effort on the part of Government agencies and the community for their welfare. The women's status bill, H. R. 2007, seems to us a realistic measure to remove discriminations which remain in our laws without limiting the power of Congress and of the States to make laws which take account of the fundamental differences between men and women on which special legislation may be needed. We favor immediate and favorable action by Congress on this bill.
Let me say further than we are members of the national committee on the status of women, and associate ourselves fully with the statements presented by them on this issue. Sincerely yours,
JULIA M. GREEN, M, D., Womens' National Homeopathic Medical Fraternity.
STATEMENT OF THE WOMAN'S DIVISION OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE OF THE METHODIST CHURCH REGARDING THE WOMEN'S STATUS BILL AND THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT, SUBMITTED BY Miss ELEANOR NEFF
The woman's division of Christian service of the Methodist Church, the policymaking body of 1,4+2,421 organized Methodist women, has always been concerned about the welfare and status of women.
In order to make possible the maximum progress of women in economic, civil, social and political life, we must remove unjust discriminations. In order to implement our commitment to the United Nations, particularly as related to its
declared purpose “to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinctions as to
sex," it is appropriate that we bring our national and State laws and practices into conformity with those principles.
On the basis of available facts concerning legislative proposals directed toward the effective removal of unreasonable discrimination against women in laws and administrative practices, we have opposed the equal rights amendment (December 1944) and favored the women's status bill (H. R. 2007 and Senate Joint Resolution 67, June 17, 1947).
While it is urgent that unfair legal discrimination against women be eliminated, there is a vast body of legislation primarily protective in nature, that should be preserved.
We have consistently supported measures which limit the number of hours women may work, require minimum wages and provide other forms of protection for their health and efficiency; and laws that would strengthen family stability.
Laws placing upon a husband primary responsibility for family support, laws providing for widows' pensions, maternity benefits, etc., have always been held justified by society as a whole. Because women have a role of great importance as mothers and homemakers, these protective laws for women are in the general welfare. They are important to all of us.
The proposal to establish legislative equality between the sexes by an amendment to the Constitution is impractical and undesirable. It would throw hundreds of current laws into question, and would open up a period of extreme confusion in constitutional law. The enactment of the measure would provide a legal basis for an attack on all specialized legislation designed to safeguard women in industry and the home, their property rights, etc., along with those laws that are unfairly discriminatory,
In contrast to the amendment procedure, the women's status bill offers clear, positive, and quick action. It declares that it is the policy of the United States that "no distinction on the basis of sex shall be made except such as are reasonably justified by differences in physical structure, biological or social functions." Immediately upon the enactment of this bill, the Federal Government would be required to bring their regulations into conformity with this policy, to the extent existing legislation permits.
The rethinking and orderly review of the status of women today is urgently needed. This bill would establish a Commission which would have the duty of studying and reporting on all phases of the legal, economic, and social status of women in the United States today. It would review and evaluate all the significant differences on the legal treatment of the sexes in this country, and would determine which are discriminatory in the light of declared policy. It would report its conclusions and recommendations for legislation to the President.
Since most laws discriminating against women are found on the State level, this bill urges that the States declare a similar policy, and that they review their laws and practices and bring them into conformity with the declared policy. In other words, this bill would effectively rectify specific laws and practices at appropriate Federal, State, and local levels.
In summary, we favor the woman's status bill because it is an affirmative response to the United Nations Charter; because it provides an orderly review of legislation to remove discrimination against women, recognizing that certain distinctions in law are valuable to women, whileothers should be removed promptly; because it commits Congress to appropriate legislation and practices; and because it provides standards and a precedent for the States to follow if they so desire.
STATEMENT OF THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY WOMEN ON THE STATUS
OF WOMEN BILL H. R. 2007, TO THE SUBCOMITTEE OF THE HOUSE JUDICIARY
(Submitted by Miss Marjorie L. Temple, Legislative Program Associate)
The American Association of University Women, through its established democratic procedures, in 1947 endorsed the bill H. R. 2007, the so-called status of women bill, under its legislative program item which provides :
“Support of the principle of women's fullest participation in all social, economic, and political life, with safeguards for the health, safety, and general welfare of women."