Friday, December 14, 2012

President’s Commission on the Status of Women

Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy
(President's Commission on the Status of Women,
On this day in 1961: President John F. Kennedy established the President’s Commission on the Status of Women to investigate the economic, political, and legal status of women

The idea for the commission was submitted to President Kennedy in June of 1961 by Esther Peterson, the assistant secretary of labor for women’s affairs. The commission studied the condition of women’s rights in the workplace and education. It investigated federal employment policies and practices, wages, the effects of social insurance programs and tax laws on women’s income; federal and state policies on hours and wages; differences in legal treatment of men and women in regard to political, civil, and property rights and family relations; and creation of services such as job training, home services, and daycare services. Among its study committees, the commission included a committee to investigate issues particular to African American women and a committee to investiage the portrayal of women in the mass media.

Eleanor Roosevelt was named head of the commission. Its 26 members included educators, writers, women’s rights advocates, union leaders, several Cabinet members, and members of Congress (including women members!).
The report submitted the following year documented systematic discrimination against women in the workplace. It made recommendations to the federal government as well as to the private sector. Recommendations included
  • vocational and continuing education
  • childcare services and related tax deductions
  •  equal opportunity in employment
  • extensions to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to cover additional categories
  • comprable work laws
  • union rights
  • litigating equal rights, including passage of the ERA
  • encouraging women to serve in elective and appointive offices at all levels of government
  • Cabinet level appointment to implement recommendations.

The recommendations were not taken up very quickly (still waiting!), but some changes were made in the years following publication of the report. At the federal level, Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Also in 1963, Washington State created the first state-level commission. Within  four years nearly all states formed their own commissions on the status of women. These commissions became advocates for women’s equality within their states. 

Follow the link for the text of Executive Order 10980.


In Other News:
Born this day in 1897: Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine), first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.   
On this day in 1970: The National Press Club decided to admit women members.
On this day in 1985: Wilma Mankiller became the first woman chief of the Cherokee nation.

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