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A Class by HerselfProtective Laws for Women Workers, 1890s-1990s$
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Nancy Woloch

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691002590

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691002590.001.0001

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Gender, Protection, and the Courts, 1895–1907

Gender, Protection, and the Courts, 1895–1907

(p.33) 2 Gender, Protection, and the Courts, 1895–1907
A Class by Herself

Nancy Woloch

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses how the courts shaped protective policy from the 1890s to 1907. During this period, state and federal courts began a legal conversation about state protective laws. In court, challengers relied on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; they embraced freedom of contract and also cited the amendment's equal protection clause. Meanwhile, defenders gave wide latitude to the police power, the state's power to protect the health and welfare of its citizens. Throughout the era, the legal system imposed a discussion of gender. In cases that involved women workers, decisions that upset protective laws defended equal status for women. On the other hand, decision that upheld single-sex laws explored the role of sexual difference, mentioned women's reproductive capacity, and linked hours limits to the good of posterity and the welfare of society. Thereafter, judicial opinion steered states' attorneys—and the reformers who backed protective labor laws—into gender-based strategies.

Keywords:   state protective laws, Fourteenth Amendment, freedom of contract, police power, legal system, gender, women workers, single-sex laws, sexual difference, gender-based strategies

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