Document 16: Caroline Lexow Babcock to Florence Ledyard Cross Kitchelt, 10 January 1945, in National Woman's Party Papers, 1913-1974 (Glen Rock, N. J.: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1977-1978), Reel 84.


   Caroline Lexow Babcock's letter to Kitchelt strongly represented the view of the National Woman's Party that the ERA was incompatible with gender-specific labor legislation. Babcock (1882-1981) was executive secretary of the NWP, 1938-1946. She had worked with the Women's Peace Union of the Western Hemisphere, 1921-1931.


January 10, 1945

Mrs. Richard Kitchelt
38 Mensfield Street
New Haven, Connecticut

My dear Florence:

    Your letter of January 9, addressed to Miss Paul and me, has just arrived.

    Miss Paul was leaving for New York and has left the question of replying to your letter to me. First, I want to congratulate you on getting 50% of the Connecticut delegation back of the introduction. This is indeed a splendid record.

    Do you remember our policy in suffrage days -- the policy of refusing to answer the objections of the anti-suffragists. We just ignored them and went on with our business. I was just wondering if that wasn't a good way to handle the quibbles about the Equal Rights Amendment.

    The thing seems as clear as crystal to me. Equality of rights means precisely what it says. Applied industrially, it means that you cannot take a group of women in a given industry employing both men and women and apply to them laws which do not apply to their men competitors. You can apply laws to all miners, man and women; to all weavers, men and women; to waiters and waitresses; to all entertainers, men and women; and so on. Whatever protection is decided upon must be applied to the job and the industry and not the sex of the worker.

    The nationality law is a case in point. There is one law applying equally to men and women. When the National Women's Party was fighting for the adoption of that measure, the same sort of opposition was advanced then as now.

    The height of absurdity, it seems to me, has been reached -- when the Labor Department has the nerve to propose that every state shall adopt laws providing for certain maximum hours and minimum wages for women, and then adds no men shall be allowed to work for more hours or for less pay than woman. They are so settled in their determination to discriminate between men and women, that even when they are handing them equality they can't do it directly, but must adopt this back-handed method.

    Contrasted with this sort of thing the Equal Rights Amendment is so frank and so clear and above-board that it is just a pleasure to contemplate.

    All of which is probably entirely beside the point of your last paragraph, but it is always fun to think out loud with you.

Faithfully yours,

Caroline Lexow Babcock
Executive Secretary

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