Wiley's letter to Kitchelt reiterated the view of the National Woman's Party that the ERA would "do away with protective legislation for women only." Anna Kelton Wiley (1877-1964) was active in more than forty women's reform causes, including suffrage, the NWP, Daughters of the American Revolution, and the National Consumers' League. She spent five days in jail for picketing the White House in 1917, served twice as Chairman of the National Woman's Party, and at the time of this letter was editor of the NWP periodical, Equal Rights.
NATIONAL WOMAN'S PARTY
ALVA BELMONT HOUSE
144 B STREET, NORTHEAST
WASHINGTON 2, D. C.
TELEPHONE ATLANTIC 1210
2345 Ashmead Place
Washington 9 D.C.
January 26, 1945
Mrs. Florence L.C. Kitchelt,
38 Mansfield Street
New Haven, Connecticut.
Dear Mrs. Kitchelt;
I am in receipt of your letter of Jan.22d in which you say "If we would discard that protective legislation issue for the present - and it does not belong in the present - we could ‘Win friends and influence people.’"
Personally I do not think we can side-step the issue of protective legislation for women only. We cannot meet issues by dodging them. It is impossible to have equality and inequality in the same measure.
If the equal rights amendment passes it will do away with protective legislation for women only. It will compel protective laws in industry to be for both men and women. I think it is likely, in this social minded era, that when the adjustments are made the protective laws now enacted for women will extend to both sexes. In Connecticut they have a minimum wage law for men and women, the only State where that exists.
I doubt if the prohibition of work after 10 o'clock will remain on the books for either sex. That is an anachronism. An adult person should be allowed to work after 10 p.m. if he or she so desires, especially if the pay is better.
A limited working day will have to provide for over-time for both sexes. Now the limited working days for women are absolute, no over-time is allowed. If a woman goes back and is found on the premises her employer is fined. Under the union protection a man can work over-time and gets pay and a half. Women in unions are now enjoying that protection, if the State laws do not prohibit it.
Discrimination simply means differences. What we want is equality of treatment of men and women in the law and in practice. "Equality of rights under the law" means if it means anything the right to contract for one's labor. All these protective laws for women only prevent women from freely contracting for their labor. These protective laws when pinned to women only make women undesirable as employees. If protective laws applied to all workers alike then merit would be criterian in employing a person, not sex.
I inclose a statement Burnita Shelton Matthews made several years ago that "Industrial laws when applying to women but 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 inavariably forced into harder, more poorly paid work, as scrubbing floors, for which they must compete with one another."
That has always seemed a good statement to me. No I feel that we must meet the CIO and convince them, by the women in their own movement, that they are wrong. They are ostensibly working for humanitarian reasons against the amendment because it will nullify protective legislation for women, but in reality they fear a loss of jobs for men. Women must earn in the post-war world just as men must. A woman needs food, shelter and clothing just as men do. No we must meet the issue full in the face. Sincerely.