Document 5: [National Woman's Party], "The Equal Rights Amendment and Protective Legislation," [1929], Box 1, Folder 6, Anna Kelton Wiley Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 2 pp.


   This NWP pamphlet expresses the party's steadfast opposition to labor laws for women and the belief that the Equal Rights Amendment would end such laws. Undated, the flyer was first written before 1929, but the version reproduced here was printed after the NWP had moved into the Alva Belmont House.[30] The NWP's arguments in favor of the ERA changed little between 1923 and 1943, a major factor prompting Florence Kitchelt to offer a new direction when she joined the Party in 1943. (See Document 7)


The Equal Rights Amendment and
Protective Legislation

    WILL the Equal Rights Amendment affect protective legislation for women? This is sometimes asked, but in order to reply it is necessary to know what is meant by protective legislation.

    There are three kinds of protective legislation generally considered in this connection:

    1. Children's (miscalled "mothers'") pensions.

    2. Maternity legislation.

    3. Industrial legislation.

    Let us consider each separately.


    This pension is for the child and not the mother. The basis is usually so much for each child. The pension is often given to others than the mother to administer; for example, the Colorado law gives it to either parent who is responsible for the child and unable to support it.

    The Woman's Party believes there should be no discrimination between the child who is motherless and the child who is fatherless, but that aid should be based upon the needs of the child and given to either parent or other guardian to administer.

    The Equal Rights Amendment would not interfere with this legislation.


    The Sheppard-Towner Act provided for an appropriation from the United States Treasury to the several States "for the purpose of co-operating with them in promoting the welfare and hygiene of maternity and infancy." It charged the Children's Bureau with the administration of the act and further provided that no official agent or representative of the Children's Bureau should enter any home or take charge of any child over the objections of the parents or either of them, or the persons standing in loco parentis or having custody of such child.

    Such a law would not be affected by the Equal Rights Amendment which provides for Equal Rights between men and women.


    This legislation is of four types:

    (a) Seats in stores.

    (b) Prohibition of occupations.

    (c) Limitation of hours of work.

    (d) Prohibition of night work.

    The National Woman's Party believes that all such legislation should be based upon the nature of the work and not upon the sex of the worker--that it should apply to men and women alike. This standard of equality which the Equal Rights Amendment would establish nationally is already existent in some parts of the United States or other countries. For example:

    (a) Seats for men and women employees engaged in mercantile or other business pursuits are required by law in Florida.



    (b) That no one should be disqualified on account of sex from entering into or pursuing any lawful business, vocation, or profession is provided in the constitution of California.

    (c) A ten-hour law for all persons, men and women alike, in mills, factories and manufacturing establishments, is found in Oregon. Mississippi and Georgia have ten-hour laws for all persons, men and women alike, in manufacturing industries. Eight-hour laws for persons, men and women alike, in certain specified occupations, are found in over thirty States.

    The demand for a shorter work-day is based upon the need of leisure, health, recreation, and the fulfilling of one's duties to society. These needs bear no relation to sex and the laws which provide for a shorter work-day should therefore be regardless of sex.

    (d) While the regulation of night work has been applied to men and women alike in some places, as Norway, in sixteen of the United States it applies to women only. The arguments of the Attorney-General upholding the New York night-work law were based on extensive investigations, both here and in Europe. The law applies to women only, but the arguments and investigations apply to both men and women. To summarize, they declared night work injurious because--

    (1) Artificial light is injurious to the eyes.

    (2) Sleep in the daytime is more broken than at night.

    (3) It tends toward greater smoking, drinking, and swearing.

    (4) Lack of sunshine tends to anæmia and tuberculosis and weakens the procreative power of men as well as the generative functions of women.

    The Equal Rights Amendment would require that all these industrial laws be made to apply to men and women alike, but the standards adopted would be left to the States.

    Industrial laws when applying to women and not to men are among the gravest discriminations against women. They close many doors of opportunity to women seeking employment. Women thrown out of work by their passage are invariably forced into harder, more poorly paid work, as scrubbing floors, for which they must compete with one another.

    This legislation, with its linking of women with children instead of with adults, began years ago in the transition stage; of women's much protested invasion of industry. Today when women are an established and increasingly important part of our economic life, justice requires that legislation concerning them be on the same basis as that for their male competitors.


    The Equal Rights Amendment would not interfere with children's pensions nor with legislation, such as the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Act. It would, however, require that all industrial laws be based upon the nature of the work, and not upon the sex of the worker.

    The Equal Rights Amendment reads: "Men and women shall have Equal Rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction."

For further information apply to

Subscribe for
the weekly magazine of the
Price $2 a year.

back to top