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Women`s Rights

The question of full rights for women covers a broad spectrum of issues. Women`s suffrage deals with the struggle of women to win the right to vote. The push for equal education for women in America had to break down many stereotypes. Rosie the Riveter brought many women into the workplace during World War II, but after the war, women were largely excluded from blue collar work and for decades were unable advance in positions of management even in white collar jobs.

The Equal Rights Amendment attempted to outlaw all discrimination against women in a single, simple statement in the Constitution, but the ERA failed to win the necessary number of ratifications from the states. Opposition came primarily from those who favored a "traditional" role for women in families and society, along with others who were concerned with the potential for the intrusion of government into more areas of personal lives.

Among the first to state their general feelings on women`s rights was Abigail Adams, who included in her many letters to husband John Adams numerous appeals for a more favorable treatment of women in the new republic.

In the middle nineteenth century, Horace Greeley was an advocate for women, particularly in the area of economic gains. While not advocating women suffrage, he brought up the issue of almost equal pay for equal work in a letter to Paulina W. Davis, a leader of the women`s rights movement in Massachusetts. It was put in the record of the Women`s Rights Convention at Syracuse NY, held on September 8-10, 1852. For his time, it was considered radical although it sounds unenlightened today:

If they would but resolve never to pay a capable, efficient woman less then two-thirds the wages paid to a vigorous, effective man employed in some corresponding vocation, they would very essentially aid the movement now in progress for the general recognition and conception of equal rights to women.

The concept of equal pay is now widely accepted in principle, although the disparity remains not far from what Greeley advocated move than a century and a half ago.

The right of women to work at all was achieved with great difficulty. For a long time, the prevailing view was that a woman`s place was in the home except under extraordinary conditions. What was otherwise a very progressive document, the "Bishops` Program of Social Reconstruction" produced by liberal catholic bishops after World War I, included the following sentence: "Another principle is that the proportion of women in industry ought to be kept within the smallest practical limits."

In the 1923 decision regarding Adkins v. Children`s Hospital, in which it overturned legislation passed by Congress establishing a minimum wage for women in the District of Columbia, Justice Sutherland, writing for the majority, opined that among other reasons, special protection for women was unneeded since the vast progress in their status, culminating in the Nineteenth Amendment, had reduced the differences in status between men and women "almost, if not quite, to the vanishing point."