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mated Clothing Workers, CIO. Due to a change in schedule, she had to go to Georgia for some collective bargaining matters and I was asked by Mr. Nathan Cowan, CIO legislative chairman, to present the statement for the CIO.
Mr. REED. Thank you, Mr. Sifton.
Might the Chair make this suggestion before we proceed? from the list of those who expect to testify today that there are about 16 in number. When we had the hearings the other day, it was suggested that those who have prepared statements, and I presume there are a great many of them that do, if they desire, they can put in the entire prepared statement and to conserve time, if they wish to insert it, the whole statement will go in the record-if they want to make a brief summary orally, the committee will be very glad to hear from them.
It is not the idea of the committee or the desire of the committee to cut anyone short, but to give everyone a chance to say everything they want; but we do wish to conserve as much time as we can and that might be the means by which we can do it.
Mr. W ADSWORTH. Mr. Chairman, may I present as the next witness, Miss Frieda S. Miller, Chief of the Women's Bureau, United States Department of Labor.
STATEMENT OF FRIEDA S. MILLER, DIRECTOR, WOMEN'S BUREAU,
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Miss MILLER. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Frieda Miller; I am the Director of the Women's Bureau of the United States Department of Labor. I should like to present to you the following statement, and I want to say that I am very glad to come before this committee in support of the women's status bill, H. R. 2007, introduced by Representative Wadsworth, and its companion measures introduced by Representatives Lewis, Kefauver, Norton, Douglas, Celler, and Rogers. This, I think, is a sound proposal, which merits prompt and favorable attention by the Congress.
Mr. Chairman, some confusion has grown up as to what changes women want in this field. May I say that I think it would be difficult to find any American women today who would be against equality for women. What has not become as clear is what in fact would provide equality for the great majority of American women. Historically, equality, or, rather, equal rights for women, had certain meanings; today, it has quite different meanings. A hundred years ago equal rights meant that women did not want to be excluded from the franchise and they wanted to control their property.
Women now have these rights. The women's status bill takes advantage of the experience they have gained in handling the franchise, in handling property, and in active pursuit of educational and economic interests. This experience has indicated the difficulty of applying the early formulation of “equality” as identity of treatment with men in all situations. Take, for example, one of the simplest situations as an illustration-age of majority as between boys and girls. Is identity of treatment here the same as equality? I submit it is not, if physiologists are correct in telling us that girls on the average mature earlier. Probably no great harm would be done if identity of treat
ment were required in that particular matter. But there are other fields in which enlightened public opinion today is calling for the enactment of laws which treat men and women differently as a matter of principle and where identity of treatment would be detrimental to women and to the State. I refer to provisions of certain State laws which require that in divorce proceedings a judge prefer the mother as guardian of the minor children of the couple, other things being equal.
Such illustrations point up the practical problems women face in evaluating the status bill. From their experience they have salted down an increasing realization that they gain most by working out each situation as it comes along; that they risk disappointment if they accept any predetermined formula until it is apparent that it also meets the practical realities of their day-to-day needs; and therefore they want no barrier in the way to specific adaptations that seem desirable to assist their progress. It is this specific, fact-by-fact approach to equality which characterizes the women's status bill, and which gives it practical value.
For, as I said before, the issue is not whether women should be given equality with men—in fact, I am sure, Mr. Chairman, we are all agreed. The problem arises in making that equality effective, in achieving an equality which takes account of the differences between men and women, in physique and function, and also of the different situations in which women find themselves today because of historical limitations and restrictions. In some fields, such as the right to vote, we are quite clear that no distinctions should be made.
In others, such as provisions for family support and the legal age of maturity, the need for distinctions is clear. Between these is a wide area in which opinions and practice vary. The women's status bill proposes to declare a general policy of equality for women and then provides for an orderly review of the status of women through which we can determine what changes would actually achieve equality rather than impose identity under a masculine pattern. I would now like to discuss that bill in some detail.
Of first importance is the policy statement in section 1 of the bill. This reads:
No distinction on the basis of sex shall be made except such as are reasonably justified by differences in physical structure, biological or social function.
This is careful language. The key words in this statement, as I read it, are "reasonably justified.” Differences between the sexes are reflected in many of our laws. The test of them is whether established legal distinctions are reasonably related to these differences. The status bill focuses attention directly on the distinctions which discriminate against women, discriminations which shock our sense of justice and which we should seek to eliminate.
The policy statement defines the basis for judgment as to what are reasonable distinctions, namely, "differences in physical structure, biological or social function.” It is hardly necessary to go into detail as to the existence of such fundamental differences.
It is generally accepted, for example, that the special responsibilities women carry in bearing and rearing children require recognition in the law. The policy recognizes the reasonableness of certain types of legislation based on the fact that women bear children, and that it is to the public interest that this function be protected. Similarly it is
generally recognized that prolonged standing subjects a woman's body to strain, and for this reason many States require employers to provide seats for their woman workers. Lead poisoning is considered especially dangerous to women during pregnancy, and some States place restrictions around women in lead industries. However, the policy demands that legal distinctions based on such sex differences must be reasonable. To be reasonable a distinction must be based on more than custom or prejudice, and must relate directly to the maternal and family functions women fulfill.
The policy I have just discussed is proposed as "the declared policy of the United States in law and its administration." I would like to emphasize the importance of this proposal in relation to administration. Discriminations against women can creep into administrative practices in ways quite unforeseen in an original statute. The bill, in section 4, recognized this possibility and directs all Federal agencies and departments at once to conform to the declared policy of the bill and to modify or eliminate rules, regulations, and practices in conflict with such policy, except as prevented by existing law. Agencies are further required to report on a given date the extent of sex distinctions remaining in their rules, regulations, or practices, with the justification therefor. Such procedure provides an immediate remedy, without further legislation, for discriminations that are now practiced against women through Federal regulations.
The heart of the bill is its proposal for a Commission to make a “full and complete study, investigation, and review of the economic, civil, social, and political status of women, and the nature and extent of discriminations based on sex throughout the United States, its Territories, and possessions." The need for this review is demonstrated by differences of opinion which have been stated before this committee on the means to achieve the essential objective of practical equality, the objective on which we are all agreed. The major task of the Commission would be the evaluation of the sex distinctions it finds of importance in relation to the policy, reconciling conflicting views in regard to them, and making recommendations as to specific changes it believe necessary. Much of the documentation as to legal status which the Commission would need for its work is already in existence. Descriptions of the legal status of women have been drawn up by various private organizations. The Women's Bureau has made several studies, one of which is now in progress to meet a request from the United Nations. It is my impression that the legal situation as to discriminations against women is fairly well known and could be described without prolonged research. What these studies lack is an evaluation of valid and invalid distinctions, so that intelligent judgments can be made as to the changes needed to bring the laws into line with fundamental American concepts of fair play and equal opportunity for all, men and women alike.
I can perhaps illustrate what kind of legal discriminations exist today by reference to various bills now before Congress which provide for a greater measure of equality for women. Among these are S. 18, in regard to Federal jury service, and H. R. 4408 on equal pay for women. Another was H. R. 5137, which in its original form would permit American wives the same right to bring in alien husbands now accorded American men to bring in alien wives. I regret that this bill has been amended by the insertion of a terminal date. These illus
trations of the types of distinction show what it is desirable to eliminate. Women's organizations very generally support these proposals, and they demonstrate the lines along which intelligent progress can be sought. Because these revisions deal with specific situations, they are all manageable projects-by that I mean that they can each be considered in relation to particular known areas of fact and experience, and their effects can be prejudged with sufficient accuracy for reasonable people to make reasonable decisions. This specific, situation-by-situation approach is characteristic of legislation of the United States, and permits us to make our judgments with confidence that we know what we are doing and what we can expect from our actions.
The organization of the Commission appears to be highly appropriate to its purpose. It will be composed of nine members appointed by the President, not more than three of whom shall be employees or officers of the executive branch of the Government. This makes possible representation from different areas of interest and experience. It would be my hope that the President would find it possible to appoint both men and women on this Commission, and that these persons should represent various points of view. Sections 2 and 3, which describe the Commission, carry also enabling clauses as to staff, including the authority to cooperate with Federal, State, and private agencies and to utilize their facilities without compensation. The long experience of cooperation between Government agencies and women's organizations should make work on this project fruitful, particularly in stimulating interest in State and local civic groups affiliated with the national women's organizations. On the basis of the information this Commission gathers, it is required to report to the President, with recommendations, and the President is required to forward these to Congress within 30 days together with his own recommendations. At this point the life of the Commission terminates, and further action will be the responsibility of the Congress and of the State legislatures. The value of the status bill is therefore to provide a basis for sound action; and aside from the fact that it declares a policy and requires administrative adherence to it, it does not in itself constitute final legislation.
Mr. Chairman, the Congress has had before it for many years proposals on equal rights for women. A great deal of agitation has been built up around these proposals, and I am certain that the time spent in conferences, correspondence, and consultation with legislatures has been a drain on all concerned. A practical approach to this problem will therefore save important time and money. The Commission's work can provide State and local bodies, as well as the Congress, with evaluations they sorely need. The report will also enrich and expand the information on the status of women which is being prepared for the United Nations. While the international aspect of this problem is not germane to the proposal you are considering, you may be interested to know that comparative study is being planned by the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and women in the United States are eager that American experience be presented as fully as possible for the United Nations use.
I have already mentioned the provision in section 4 of the bill to bring Federal administrative practices at once in line with the policy in the bill. Section 5 is directed to the legislative bodies of the several States and their political subdivisions, suggesting that they adopt a
similar policy and that they review their legislation, regulations, ordinances, and governmental practices to bring them into conformity. The bill provides that the report of the Commission be made available to State and Territorial executives. This is an important provision, as many of the discriminations against women are within the jurisdiction of State and local governments. The bill has the advantage of leaving with the States, in the fields which are within their jurisdiction, the freedom and the responsibility to take action they believe appropriate. Initiative is thus left to the States to review their laws and bring them in line with progressive situations which, as I pointed out at the beginning, can be expected in relation to local experience.
That, Mr. Chairman, completes my analysis of the provisions of the bill.
This completes my analysis of the provisions of the bill. I have been asked a number of questions about it, both by men and by women. The most frequent of these is whether there really are in our country serious discriminations against women. My answer to this question is “Yes”—there are still discriminations against women. Some are small but stubborn-13 States, for instance, still refuse to allow women to serve on juries. When I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year in support of S. 18, which would provide uniform qualifications for Federal jurors, I urged the addition of a special clause to make certain that women should be eligible to serve on Federal juries.
In the great field of job opportunities women again face greater difficulties than their male competitors in achieving advantageous conditions. Women generally still earn less than men even on the same jobs; promotion comes harder, and the woman at 35 finds employers preferring younger applicants, whereas men are acceptable at 40 or older. Among these difficulties are some which can be corrected by law, while others must await gradual changes in social attitudes and customs. It is hard to realize how great have been the changes in social attitudes, in customs, in women's status in the past 50 years, or even 20 years, or the last decade. As recently as 1900 there were only 5,000,000 women in the labor force; at the close of last year, December 1947, there were 17,000,000; more than three times as many.
The 5,000,000 in 1900 constituted less than a fifth of all paid workers; the 17,000,000 today are more than a quarter. Responsibility, economic responsibility, is the common lot of these 17,000,000 employed women; studies have shown that more than 80 percent of the women who work are supporting themselves and often others as well. Moreover, today the majority of women workers are married, widowed, or divorced; and an increasing number are, despite prejudice, over 35 years of age. I mention these facts only as illustrations of the changes that have come about for women and their families, changes which have been as great or greater in educational, professional, and still other fields. As I see it, it would be remarkable if in a period of such rapid development some inconsistencies did not appear in the body of the law, and if views did not differ as to the best methods of dealing with such inconsistency. That is the more reason for an objective evaluation of the legal treatment of women throughout our country.