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27 women whom we represent. We appreciate the privilege to appear before you
with our story. The Nation found in 1920 that the power of women was not a feather in a windstorm. During the period of World War I the Cleveland post office hired women as temporary employees. At the end of the war they were dismissed and none were hired from that time until World War II. Although a few women did qualify on civil service from time to time, they were told that “it is not the policy of this office to employ women in peacetime.”
On December 1, 1943, during World War II, women were again employed as temporary clerks. The Cleveland post office was practically “manned” by women; we worked 10 hours and, in some divisions, 11 hours a night, including Sundays and holidays, with 2 nights a month off. We worked the night shift during our 312 years of service. We also had to take an examination, scheduled every 3 months, which required memorizing the names of over 3,000 separate divisions of streets, buildings, and firms. We did as we were told and never complained, for there was a job to do and a war to win.
Most of the women employed during the war period were classified as war service indefinites, having qualified on a wartime civil-service examination. On March 31, 1946, all women who were not classified as war service indefinites were dismissed from the service.
In November of 1946 an examination was held for the position of postal clerk and carrier, open to the public; the first peacetime examination held since before the war in 1936. From this examination 62 women qualified; two 10-point female veterans, five 5-point female veterans, and 55 civilian women. The two 10-point and one of the 5point female veterans, together with 26 civilian women, were already employed in the post office at the time of examination, as temporary employees. The two 10-point veterans were appointed almost immediately: On March 31, 1947, all women but the 27 who had qualified on peacetime civil-service examinations were dismissed. On June 30, 1947, the 27 women, including the 5-point female veterans, were dismissed. When the 5-point female veteran was hired the department had ceased hiring women but hired her because she was a veteran, and then they dismissed her because of her sex, regardless of the fact that she had qualified on civil service, and had served in the armed forces for 31 months, with foreign service to her credit.
This discharge of experienced workers was made possible because, as we discovered, two rosters were established after the civil-service examination. One contained men-veterans and nonveterans—while the other was exclusively a female list. In filling the positions only the male roster was recognized. The employment of veterans is in no way involved in the situation, as is proved by the fact that nonveteran male workers without experience were taken on after we were discharged.
Of the 1,300 employees of the Cleveland post office, only 8 are women. How is it possible for this agency to carry on this kind of discriminatory policy? It seems to us it is because of the absence of any Federal standards. In each post office the post master can decide whether he will have a strictly male staff or not. We know that in several large
cities, including Boston and Detroit, women are employed in the same kind of occupations which we performed in the Cleveland post office.
The postmaster has on numerous occasions indicated that our work was highly satisfactory, in some cases "exceptional.” As a proof of this, he called us all back to work during the Christmas rush this last year. Some women worked from the middle of October until the end of January-and then were laid off again.
Some objection has been made by men in the post office that the work is too heavy for women. Undoubtedly a number of jobs are not suitable for women, but certainly it is not a valid reason for refusing employment on the jobs for which we are qualified, such as stenographic and clerical work, window work, sorting of mail. A garment factory would not refuse to take on women who operate power-sewing machines because they cannot lift heavy boxes in the shipping room.
We object to this policy not only because it is unfair to the women employees, but also it is not an efficient way to handle the post office, to substitute for experienced, efficient workers untried people who must be trained. We object to pulling an iron curtain down on all female employment. We look to the Congress as the only source to correct this situation.
Mrs. STONE. I want to say that one of the other members who was dismissed is here, Miss Mary Quilter, from Cleveland.
Mr. CHADWICK. Was there inquiry whether these ladies made public their complaint in the community of Cleveland with the same eloquence they have here, and as vocally?
Mrs. SOLLARS. We made the complaint in Cleveland but with no results. We have met organized opposition and the postmaster says that during the 40 years that the post office has been in existence they have not hired women and he does not feel as though he wants to go on record as being the first postmaster to hire women. But women are hired in Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia-Philadelphia has women carriers; they have them in New York, Boston, and in Los Angeles the retired postmistress was a woman, naturally. And since the mail is the same all over the country, and its processes of distribution are the same, we feel that we should have the job the same as any woman in any other city as long as we have qualified on civil service.
We feel that we are being denied our civil rights.
Mr. CHADWICK. Mr. Chairman, just as a point of memory, entirely aside from all the controversial questions here and whatever the regulations may be as respects to that, I would like to suggest that we consider passing, suggesting to the Congress at least as a minimum of anything else the committee desires to, a very simple statute dealing with situations that this lady refers to, not in express form but declaratory of equal rights through administration in the form that is adopted in the bill now, the women's status bill.
Mr. REED. Mrs. Stone?
Mrs. STONE. I would like to call next on Miss Eleanor Neff, of the Methodist Women's Auxiliary; perhaps she has not come in yet.
Then we will hear from Mrs. Samuel Brown, of the National Council of Jewish Women,
STATEMENT OF MRS. SAMUEL BROWN, REPRESENTING NATIONAL
COUNCIL OF JEWISH WOMEN Mrs. Brown. Mr. Chairman, the National Council of Jewish Women, an organization of 70,000 women, representative of all economic, social, and educational levels, and ranging in occupations from the professional career woman in the big city to the housewife in the smaller community, respectfully urges the passage of the women's status bill, H. R. 2007, now before you for consideration.
The National Council of Jewish Women has worked for the past 50 years to broaden the scope of women's participation in the political, social, and economic life of their country and of the world. And these years have seen tremendous gains made in the extension of rights to women in the field of labor, professional training, the vote, and education. There can be no doubt that, while discrimination with regard to sex is gradually being broken down, many inequities still remain. However, while making every effort to eradicate these discriminatory measures, we must be certain that we do not create additional problems.
In this connection, it is important to remember that most of the hindrances to legal equality for women are found not in Federal but in State and local statutes and governmental practices. In addition, the pattern varies considerably from State to State. Women are deprived of equal rights in relation to property, to the family and to choice of occupation. The Federal Government must assume leadership in setting an example to the States and in providing the States with information about how these injustices can be corrected. H. R. 2007, which is now before you, does just that.
The women's status bill provides for a comprehensive evaluation of the status of women by a commission to be appointed by the President. This Commission would study the economic, civil, social, and political status of women all over the country, and would be empowered to make recommendations for such legislation as may seem to them necessary. While this proposal would not entail companion action by the States, it would supply needed guidance to State legislatures and give impetus to reform movements within the States. As a fact-finding agency, the Commission could also investigate claims of discriminations against women in hiring and pay practices in private employment and professional life.
The bill also provides for immediate action by all the agencies of the Federal Government to wipe out discriminatory practices on the basis of sex, to the extent permitted by existing legislation. It will thus help in eliminating the few remaining inequities in the Federal system.
While the National Council of Jewish Women gives its wholehearted support to the women's status bill, it wishes again to go on record as being unequivocably opposed to the so-called equal-rights amendment. This amendment, which has been before the Senate and House for over 25 years, fails to take into account that, while equality of the sexes may be possible on some levels, there nevertheless are physical and functional differences between men and women which require special consideration. The women's status bill recognizes these differences and will seek to correct discrimination intelligently through study, evaluation, and legislation. The equal-rights amendment, on
the other hand, would do no more than negate all the years of effort in the passage of minimum wage-and-hour laws for women, and make it impossible to present any legislation dealing with specific problems of women. For the record, I am submitting a copy of previous testimony presented by the National Council of Jewish Women in opposition to the so-called equal-rights amendment.
As a signatory to the United Nations Charter, the United States has subscribed to the fundamental concept of freedom for all without distinction as to sex. The women of the world are looking to us to lead the way in the elimination of unfair discriminations based on sex. With the passage of the women's status bill, the United States will take the first decisive step in assuming world leadership in this field. For these reasons, the National Council of Jewish Women urges immediate passage of H. R. 2007.
Mrs. STONE. Our next witness is Mr. Joseph Kovner, American Civil Liberties Union.
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH KOVNER, REPRESENTING THE AMERICAN
CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION Mr. KOVNER. If the committee please, I have a brief statement to read on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union. I am a member of the union and an attorney here in Washington, D. C.
The attention of the American Civil Liberties Union has been called to the proposed hearings on the status of women bill (H. R. 2007) and the equal-rights amendment (H. Res. 49 and similar bills) which are to be held by the House Judiciary Committee on March 10, 1948.
We refer the committee to the statement submitted by the union last April 30, supporting H. R. 2007 and opposing the equal-rights amendment proposals.
We favor the status of women bill for these reasons:
The union affirms its belief that the rights of human being are irrespective of sex, race, nationality, religion, or opinion, and that everyone has the right to protection against arbitrary discrimination on any of these grounds. H.R. 2007, by offering effective means for removing legal and administrative bars to the advancement of women but preserving legislation justified by genuine sex differences, does more to provide such protection than the so-called equal-rights amendment, which would jeopardize many hard-won gains.
H. R. 2007, in contrast to the so-called equal-rights amendment, would outlaw only those distinctions on basis of sex as are not justified by reason of differences in physiological, biological, or social function. It adopts a legislative rather than a constitutional approach, which reaches those discriminations against women which are untouched either by the fifth and fourteenth amendments or the proposed equal-rights amendment.
By requiring a commission to study and report on all phases of discrimination on sexual bases, the door is left continuously open for up-to-date, factual material which could be used as a continuing source of material for new and needed legislation. Revision of present laws could be undertaken from an over-all point of view, rather than the shot-gun method of revision implicit in the equal-rights amendment proposal.
We oppose the so-called equal-rights amendment on these grounds:
On principle, the language being so broad and vague, it would jeopardize many laws in favor of women for which there is a reasonable basis, such as certain labor and family laws.
There is little likelihood of early adoption of the proposed amendment. Witness the history of the child-labor amendment.
The proposed amenđment would have to be implemented by statutes in any event, as it is not self-executing. Moreover, a veritable chaos would result from ratification as State laws would have to be rewritten and tested in the courts, the financial burden of which would fall largely on those groups least able to afford it.
In conclusion, therefore, the best, and in the long run, the quickest method of obtaining equal civil rights in law for women is the women's equal-status bill, H. R. 2007.
We urge its prompt approval by this committee and by Congress.
And this statement is signed by John Haynes Holmes, chairman, board of directors; Roger N. Baldwin, director; Dorothy Kenyon, chairman, committee on women's rights, American Civil Liberties Union. Mr. REED. Thank
you. Mr. CHADWICK. Mr. Kovner, there are two things I want to ask, and I ask these upon the assumption that the answers will be in the affirmative. The three names that are signed to this, Mr. Holmes, Mr. Baldwin, and Miss Kenyon, each have attached to them the position of the particular individual. But what action of your larger group lies behind this to authorize this statement?
Mr. KOVNER. Yes, sir; the American Civil Liberties Union policies are laid down by an executive committee consisting I do not now have those exact figures, but I can supply them, and the composition, approximately some 50 individuals from all over the country.
Mr. CHADWICK. Was there formal authority?
Mr. KOVNER. There was formal action by resolution of the position of the American Civil Liberties Union in support of this bill.
Mr. CHADWICK. Sometimes statements are made in behalf of organizations which do not have the authority of community action.
I want to ask you why you say that the proposed amendment is not self-executing.
Mr. KOVNER. The proposed amendment would establish a general principle of law, assuming it were adopted, like any other constitutional provision and it would require specific statutory enactment consistent with that principle.
Mr. CHADWICK. Have you thought that proposition through yourself and is that your conclusion?
Mr. KOVNER. "That, sir, is my conclusion on the basis of familiarity with other constitutional provisions of the same sort, for example
Mr. CHADWICK. If that conclusion were correct, what purpose would there be for postponing the operation of the amendment for 3 years?
Mr. KOVNER. I am not a sponsor of the amendment, but I assume that those who have proposed the amendment postponed the operation for 3 years precisely in order to give the various States time to adjust their laws to the amendment.
Mr. CHADWICK. They would have that in any event, without any such postponement, unless it were self-executing, would they not?