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Since its founding in 1882, the American Association of University Women has worked for universal recognition of the right of women to participate in all phases of our social and economic life. Believing firmly that no social order can function properly without the full participation of all its members regardless of sex, the association has long sought to eliminate those legal discriminations which work to the detriment of women and deny them the right to exercise their privileges and duties as citizens.
The association has recognized that full participation of women in the economic and social life of the community should not and must not result in identity of the sexes before the law. There are certain law's which the States have passed in recognition of the special function of women as childbearers and homemakers. These laws are aimed to protect women because they must sacrifice their place in the economic world, for a short period of time at least, when they bear children and seek to rear them. In the eyes of the State, the child is the important object of protection since he represents the State's continued existence. The source of this continued existence is therefore protected by the laws of each State according to the views of that State.
It is at this State level that discriminations exist in law and in fact. It must, therefore, be at the State level that these discriminations are eradicated where they are unjust, and maintained or extended where they are necessary for the good of society as a whole. H. R. 2007, the so-called status bill, is an attempt to do this. It does not seek a blanket reform of all laws affecting women, but it provides for a thorough study and survey of such laws, to discover those which unreasonably discriminate against women on the basis of sex and then calls upon the States to correct them.
The American Association of University Women represents a membership of approximately 98,000 women college graduates in 1,028 branches throughout the United States. Our members are in all branches of the professions, in private industry, in government, and in international affairs. Many of them successfully combine homemaking and a career, and many of them as homemakers are contributing largely of themselves to community life. It is in these capacities that they are constantly encountering unjust discriminatory laws and practices which restrict their participation as citizens and which create for them many real hardships. H. R. 2007 would, we believe, eventually eliminate many of these hardships without removing the benefits which have been gained through individual laws enacted for their physical and economic well-being as individual women and as mothers.
Over a period of 25 years women have gained many rights denied them under the old common law, but they still have far to go before they are fully accepted as equally capable citizens with men. During this time many women have fought ardently for an equal-rights amendment to the Federal Constitution, believing that this was the only way to secure for women the equality they seek. This association has been, and will continue to be, opposed to any equal-rights amendment which does not provide for the protection of the health, welfare, and safety of women. The equal-rights amendment, as it now exists, would exclude such protection and would, we believe, be a backward step.
While this association is not willing to go as far as the supporters of the equal. rights amendment, it would like to go further than H. R. 2007, in that this bill is not an "action" bill: it would only recommend necessary legislation to the States. H. R. 2007 is a step in the right direction, however, since any Nation-wide survey of State laws and administrative practices would focus attention on some of the very unjust laws and practices which exist, and would hasten the process of bringing the State laws in line with progressive philosophy and practices.
As this committee has already received much information on existing unjust discriminatory laws and the effects, pro and con, of an equal-rights amendment, the American Association of University Women feels that any remarks on the specific legal implications of existing laws or the proposed amendment would be repetitious. It is the conviction of the association that many of the hardships encountered by women are the result of the unthinking attitudes, of men and women alike, toward social and economic developments which are affecting the position of women in the modern world.
We believe that H. R. 2007, by calling attention to these problems and exposing injustices, will stimulate clearer thinking on the part of people generally with regard to these questions and result in corrective efforts.
STATEMENTS ON BEHALF OF THE NATIONAL BOARD OF THE YOUNG WOMEN'S CHRISTIAN
ASSOCIATIONS, BY MRS. ARTHUR FORREST ANDERSON, PRESIDENT, ON HEARING ON H. R. 2007, THE STATUS OF WOMEN, BEFORE SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, FEBRUARY 19, 1948
The national board of the Young Women's Christian Associations welcomes this opportunity to express its support of H. R. 2007 on the legal status of women. The board believes that the Commission provided for in the bill would be able to expose unreasonable discrimination and direct legislative action against such discrimination.
The YWCA velieves that H. R. 2007 is in line with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations with regard to the promotion and encouragement of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all people.
For many years the YWCA has been opposed to the so-called equal rights amendment believing that it would automatically remove certain laws made for the protection of women. Our interest in securing just legislation on human rights has been based largely upon the actual experience of our own members and the exploitation which as women they have experienced in their working lives. The provisions of H. R. 2007 offer a sound method of dealing with the intricate problem of securing justice for women; (1) By establishing a commission on the legal status of women in the United States, to declare a policy as to distinctions based on sex, in law and administration and for other purposes, and (2) by enacting legislation which shall establish the policy of the United States in law and its administration that no distinctions on the basis of sex shall be made except such as are reasonably based by differences in physical structure, biological, or social function. The exceptions are important and such exceptions would have to be taken into consideration in legislation affecting women. Under an equal-rights amendment to the Constitution it would be extremely difficult to maintain present protective legislation or to enact new laws that would take into consideration the physical, biological, or social function of women,
The procedure of amending the Constitution and interpreting each new law in terms of the amendment might take years. H. R. 2007 would immediately make possible selective legislation to eliminate unreasonable discrimination against women, and would set up a Commission to “make a full and complete study, investigation, and review of the nature and extent of discriminations based on sex throughout the United States, its Territories, and possessions." A blanket statement about "equality" is meaningless without such facts as the Commission could supply.
By following this procedure the United States would truly be providing enlightened leadership to other nations of the world which are struggling with similar problems. Other countries are seeking ways to bring women into full citizenship status, to provide equal opportunities for education and vocational training, and opportunities for employment based upon individual ability, and equality of remuneration according to the nature of the work that is done.
The YWCA is interested in the health and well-being of all workers, but we have a special concern for women and girls in the United States and throughout the world. There are YWCA members in 69 countries and they are all concerned about the status of women as workers, wives, and mothers. Many of these women are young working wives or heads of families. The economic and moral well-being of their families depends upon their remaining healthy. They are willing to carry their full share of responsibility as workers, parents, and citizens, and to that extent to be the "equals" of men. At the same time, their biological and social functions are different from men's. With respect to their responsibility for rearing children and providing a decent home life they often have a greater responsibility than men have. The war left many countries with a great shortage of men, placing upon women the full responsibility as heads of families. The resulting problems are too great to be swept aside by a mere statement on “equality.” The problems demand thorough study in each country, and the United States should lead the way in removing legal and administrative bars to the employment of women but, at the same time, preserving protective legislation to which they are entitled as human beings.
The rational board, therefore, urges passage of H. R. 2007 to set into motion as quickly as possible the work of the Commission and to establish a policy based upon justice to women with full recognition of their functions in society. STATEMENT OF RUSSELL SMITH, LEGISLATIVE SECRETARY, NATIONAL FARMERS
UNION, TO THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, REGARDING WOMEN'S STATUS BILL AND EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT, MARCH 16, 1948
There is no doubt that there is need for some form of action to give women their full place in our society. It is true that many of the old disabilities they sustained under the common law have been discarded by changes, mainly in State laws, over a period of years, but there are still discriminations, both in law and its administration, which have no justification in this day and age. For example, in some States women still do not have equal guardianship rights with men over their children; in several States they are not free to conduct their own business without consent of their husbands. The committee will recognize the absurdity of such legal codes in the face of the fact that almost 17,000,000 women, are nongainfully employed, and that great numbers of them contribute to the support of others. There remain other grave inequities in the pay that women receive for their work, and remedial legislation is needed there.
In another field, that of civil and political status, women continue to be discriminated against in completely unjustifiable ways. In 13 States they are still unable to serve on State juries, and their right to serve on Federal juries in those same States is, under the present Federal practice, limited by their disability under State laws. Legislation to remedy this situation, as far as Federal juries are concerned, is now being proposed in both Houses of Congress, but there are still members of Congress who oppose allowing women to exercise this responsibility of citizenship. Again, our immigration laws permit special privileges to men that are not permitted to women. Men citizens may bring in their alien wives on a nonquota basis, irrespective of the date of marriage, and thus establish homes and families in the best American tradition, but an American woman who marries a foreigner must wait, sometimes years, before she can bring him into her country because he cannot come in on a nonquota basis unless the marriage took place prior to July 1932. We know that such cases are not isolated but run into several thousands, and these American women, many of them with children, are left to fend for themselves and are denied the protection and support of their husbands. Why? Because our immigration laws still retain antiquated provisions with their roots in sex discriminations.
Unfair discriminations against women exist in the Federal law and its administration and in State law. How to get rid of them is the question. What is the best way of doing it?
Progress has been hampered because of differences among women themselves. Militant groups have convinced themselves that a constitutional amendment is the answer—that it would automatically eliminate all legal distinctions between the sexes and then women would “live happily ever after." The National Farmers Union is opposed to the equal rights amendment because, in the first place, there are now many distinctions in law which take into account the fundamental differences between the sexes, that should be retained because, by their very lack of identity of treatment, they promote rather than prevent a truer equality between the sexes. Consider state minimum wage and maximum hour laws, which protect the function of motherhood through the guaranty of sufficient wages to maintain women in health and which prevent them from becoming overly fatigued through excessively long hours of work in factories and other paid employment. Consider the provisions for dependency allowances for widows with young children which also falls in the category of legislation that has a positive social value. But it does not establish identity of treatment as between men and women. Passage of an equal rights amendment would, in the judg. ment of eminent legal authorities, wipe out these and similar laws and thus actually burden women with disadvantages of which legislation has already relieved them. The clock of social progress would be set back.
An amendment would not automatically establish many of the "equalities" that its proponents suggest that it would. New laws would still need to be passed to clarify many situations. In effect, in relation to certain types of legislation, the same procedures would be necessary to bring about desired changes as are necessary now. In the meantime hopeless confusion in the courts would result from litigation arising out of the amendment as to continuing validity of existing legal codes. For example, in most States the legal age for marriage of women is lower than that for men. If the equal-rights amendments were passed, and if it actually "abolished" distinctive legislation based on sex, would the legal age of marriage for men by the automatic standard? Presumably it would, under the philosophy of the proponents of the amendment, because they are de
manding for women "the same treatment as for men." This would result in a positive disadvantage to women, and would be unsound on both a biological and social basis. There is no dispute as to the fact that women mature earlier than men and social practice for centuries has recognized this by establishing a younger legal marriage age for them. Are we now, in the name of "identity" going to create a social absurdity by setting a woman's marriageable age the same as a man's? Such a situation would actually postpone a woman's choice of a husband to a considerably later age, and indeed would create greater limitation on her freedom than she now has. This is even more absurd when we consider that many thousands of young women begin to earn their own living as early as 16 or 17 years of age. Surely we do not want to establish more disabilities for women than they now labor under. This is but one example, but it serves to illustrate the fallacy of an indiscriminate approach to a very complex problem.
The alternative to the amendment process, in H. R. 2007 and other identical bills in the House and Senate, contains, the National Farmers Union believes, the only solution to the problem that is vexing us. First of all, it recognizes in its statement of policy in section 1 that there are fundamental differences between men and women “in physical structure, biological and social function" and that there are reasonable differentiations that should be made in law recognizing this fact. The policy statement protects women, however, against any distinctions based on sex other than those that can be “reasonably justified." This would permit the continuation of such sound legislation as labor laws for women, and laws placing upon the father the primary obligation for the support of his children, while it would throw into the discard whatever excuses now are offered for keeping women out of jury service or for other civil disabilities unrelated to fundamental differences between the sexes. In other words, the policy as stated permits the exercise of discretion and judgment in the evaluation of present laws and their administration, rather than a blunderbus approach which would result in wrecking the good as well as the bad legal distinctions between the sexes.
The soundness of the proposals in H. R. 2007 is further demonstrated by its provision for a Commission, to be appointed by the President, to make a thoroughgoing study and review of the status of women in the United States in all its many and complex ramifications with a view to making recommendations for action that will actually establish practical equality between the sexes. Much information has already been collected and documented by various private organizations and by Government agencies, including notable studies by the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor, on the differences in present law between the status of men and women, The thorny question as to which of these differences constitute "discriminations” and which are desirable to retain in order to create a true equity for women is the real problem. It is this evaluation job that we consider the principal contribution the Commission would make. It would be composed of persons representing various points of view in this field, equipped with an appropriate technical staff, and authorized to call upon and use the facilities and resources of other Government and private agencies, with their consent, in making its investigations. In other words, this Commission will have full opportunity to learn the whole story on sex discriminations. When it completes its task, we should know, once and for all, the extent and nature of these discriminations.
Out of this knowledge and the experience of the Commission members in working together we should also get some measure of agreement and a dispassionate evaluation as to what laws and practices it is most important to change, and the relative urgency of the desirable changes. There is no real difference among women as to the ultimate objective of the kind of legislation we are discussing. All want a genuine equality with men in our civic and economic life. It is not a case of some "wanting to push women ahead” and others “wanting to keep women down." We all want women to function as first-class citizens and to make their full contribution to our society. What we need is a meeting of minds on how this "genuine equality” is to be best and most speedily achieved. By discussion, review, and evaluation, the outstanding citizens who will undoubtedly compose the Commisison can untangle the emotional and frictional knots that are now actually preventing progress and can point the way toward changes that will produce the desired gains, and at the same time prevent us from getting involved in new absurdities that might grow out of the notion that to be treated "equally," men and women must be treated "identically.”
Some immediate action can be taken in the area of Federal law, even before the Commission completes its work. Indeed, the bill requires that Federal departments and agencies make a prompt review of their regulations and practices in the light of the policy of the act and modify or repeal all such regulations or practices not in conformity with the declared policy. Prompt action in this area will reassure women as to the good faith of the Federal Government and will bring them immediate benefits within the framework of existing law.
The second most immediate action can be taken by the Congress itself in response to recommendations of the Commission as to Federal laws which need to be changed to conform with the policy of the act. Such action might include amendment of the Immigration Act, juror qualifications for Federal courts, as well as others which the Commission would discover and recommend for revision.
Moreover, section 5 urges upon the States and their subdivisions a similar review of their legal codes and practices and a similar declaration of policy. Remedy for many existing situations lies within the jurisdiction of the States and they are the appropriate units of government to provide those remedies. Some States have far fewer unfair discriminations against women than others. In those States the legislative problem would be simpler.
Finally, the National Farmers Union feels more hopeful about the possible clarification and wise and prompt adjustments in women's legal status under the proposals made in H. R. 2007 than about any program or policy yet suggested in this field. Under the realistic policy it sets up as a guide, the provision for expert and objective study, evaluation, and recommendation will result, within a comparatively short period of time, in changes that will give American women full dignity as citizens and the genuine and practical equality with men that to which they aspire. They will then be able to concentrate their energies on the discharge of their responsibilities as citizens and workers in such a way that remaining psychological prejudices against them, that are outside the reach of legal remedy, will dissolve in the warm light of true partnership with men in creating a better and more self-respecting life for all in these United States of America.
STATEMENT BY THE CONGRESS OF WOMEN'S AUXILIARIES OF THE CIO ON WOMEN'S
The Congress of Women's Auxiliaries of the CIO, one of the sponsors of this measure, declares its support for the women's status bill which is now before both Houses of Congress. The bill on the status of women is needed because it will establish a legal policy regarding equal opportunities and equal responsibilities for both sexes. We feel there is a need for a discriminating approach to the solution of the problems connected with the legal status of women. The women's status bill declares it to be the policy of the United States to make “no distinctions on the basis of sex
except such as are reasonably justified by differences in physical structure, biological or social function, or similar reasonable justification in fact."
The misnamed equal-rights amendment would nullify the hard-won gains which protect workingwomen. It would do away with all protective legislation which covers the needs of widows and rights of wives. It is quite clear that women generally, and workingwomen particularly, need special consideration under the law to protect them against abuses.
The women's status bill would end confusion over "equal rights." It would get immediate action to clean up legal discriminations and disabilities. The bill will avoid ambiguities and abstract formulas by dealing with a highly complex prob. lem in a systematical, realistic manner.
We wish to add our voice to the many other national women's labor and civic organizations to urge the enactment of the bill on the status of women.
President. HELEN BLANCHARD, Director of Organization.