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Era Debate Women During The 1920's In America Women In 1920's Until 1960's In America Essay

931 words - 4 pages

During the 1920s, women’s rights activists were involved in a heated debate about the best way to achieve equality for women. Some activists believed that men and women were the same, and thus an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that made men and women legally equal in industry was necessary. Others argued that men and women were different, and thus protective labour legislation for women was necessary to equalize conditions between working men and women[footnoteRef:1]. I originally favoured the pro-ERA argument, and then I became uncertain about which side was best for equality. After participating in the group discussion, I am now certain that neither side was more or less correct than the other. [1: Kathryn Kish Sklar, "Introduction," in Who Won the Debate Over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1920s? edited by Kathryn Kish Sklar,.]
The pro-ERA argument is attractive because, though there may be differences between men and women, these differences (if they exist) do not make either gender inferior to the other in everyday life, nor in the workplace. Thus, Alice Paul and her allies made a strong case for the ERA by arguing that men and women are fundamentally equal and should be treated as such in the law and in the workplace, and that the protective legislation does not uphold this equality[footnoteRef:2]. Doris Stevens also presents a good argument: if women do not have equal rights over their own labour power as men do, then the other forms of equality women had gained mean little, since they would have less power over their own lives than men[footnoteRef:3]. However, I came to realize that this argument for legal equality was likely attractive to me due to my experience as a 21st-century Canadian woman who has generally enjoyed equality far greater than women in the 1920s ever experienced. [2: Alice Paul, “Is Blanket Amendment Best Method in Equal Rights Campaign?” Congressional Digest (March 1924): 198, 204 in Who Won the Debate Over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1920s? edited by Kathryn Kish Sklar, Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000 ] [3: Doris Stevens, "The Blanket Amendment: A Debate," The Forum 72 (August 1924): 145-152 in Who Won the Debate Over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1920s? edited by Kathryn Kish Sklar, Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000. ]
Indeed, the working class women of the 1920s certainly did not think that the ERA was the way to achieve equality. These women argued from personal experience as industrial workers. For example, Alice Hamilton and Mary Anderson argued generally that women needed the protective legislation because they were, in fact, different: women had domestic duties in addition to industrial jobs; and women’s unions were weaker than men’s. As such, working women needed the laws because they were the one thing...

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