Document 31: Florence Kitchelt to Ella M. Sherwin, January 1946, Florence Ledyard Cross Kitchelt Papers, 1885-1961, A-61, Box 8, Folder 229, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


   Kitchelt replied to Sherwin's recent letter about the ERA (See Document 30), with what had now become her basic argument concerning the likely impact of the adoption of the ERA on women's protective legislation: "We cannot tell in advance how legislatures and courts will interpret the principle" of the equal legal status for women[32].

[January 1946][A]

Dear Miss Sherwin:

   Thank you for your letter---I know how hard it is to write at length when one is terribly busy.

   I think you have mistaken my attitude. Let me see if I can put it clearly.

   I believe in laws, labor, health, etc. that protect both men and women.

   I am opposed to discrimination against women, or men.

   I want to see "protective" legislation revised.

   I do not believe that "protective legislation" is the heart of the E--R--A--. The heart of that A--is equal legal status for women. That is a principle and not a particular case.

   Suppose the Communist Party had existed in 1790, when Art. I of the Bill of Rights was under discussion. It seems to me it would have been a mistake to promote the Amendment by discussing its effect on the Communist Party; the important thing was to establish the principle of freedom of speech, press, assemblage.

   After the principle is written into the Constitution then is the time to apply it to particular cases.

   If we believe in the justice of a principle, necessarily we have faith that it will accomplish justice when applied to particular cases.

   At present it seems to me we should throw our force into the establishment of the principle. We canNOT tell in advance how legislatures and courts will interpret the principle. We can have faith that having planted the seed of justice, justice will be the fruit. The discussion about equal labor laws has been highly educational. But at the moment it befogs the real issue, how to establish the principle of equal legal status. I believe it would be better politics to adopt a clear-cut program centering on the principle and frankly admit its application is in the future and therefore unpredictable, while serenely holding our faith that justice will bear the fruit of justice.

Sincerely yours,

[Florence Kitchelt]


A. We date this undated letter as we do because it is so obviously Kitchelt's reply to Sherwin's dated 19 January 1946 (See Document 30) and they are found together in the same folder in the Kitchelt Papers.
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