Supreme Court Cases Muller V Oregon Women's Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Supreme Court cases (Muller V. Oregon) women's right

Why it was an issue of national importance

The Muller v. Oregon case was among the most crucial Supreme Court cases in the U.S. during the progressive regime. The case held an Oregon law that limited the working days for female wage employees to a maximum of ten hours. In 1908, this case created a precedent to expand access of national activities into the frameworks of the protective labor legislation (Hartman, Roy, and Cindy 74). In the Brandeis Court Brief, the defense circumvented previous decisions by the Supreme Court, which had emphasized the freedom of workers to contracts free from state regulations. The defense stressed formal legal logic through medical information and social science to argue that overworking female workers were detrimental to their health. The argument proceeded that the state was interested in counteracting this. The court won because the society was interested in protecting bodies of potential mothers who were perceived as bearers of the race. This ruling opened the path to extended state power to control workplaces based on sex difference (Spillenger 6).

The case emerged when the owner of the Grand Laundry, Hans Court Muller coerced Emma Gotcgher, the wife of the union leader to work more than ten hours based on the state law. This prompted a local judge to impose a legal fee on Muller who responded by appealing. This placed the case on the path leading to the supreme court of the U.S. (Hartman, Roy, and Cindy 93).

The case attracted remarkable national attention of the country's feminist movements who supported women's issues. The National League of Consumers with Florence as the executive head and Josephine as the active member promoted the Oregon law. Florence and Josephine argued that long working hours were harmful to female employees, especially pregnant mothers and workers. Nevertheless, other women movements opposed the law (Bloomfield 77). The National Women Party under the leadership of Alice Paul claimed that treating women differently could make them impossible to compete with men for positions at the workplace. Special protection of women might deter their efforts to gain equality in the workplace. Some activists opposing the Oregon laws were not much involved in issues pertaining to women. They were interested in government interference in business and the fight to defend the liberty of contract (Hartman, Roy, and Cindy 74).

Florence and Josephine contended that states had a special interest to help employees in threatening occupations. In fear that the Lochner ruling could set a principle for future court rulings and hinder the ability of states to erect laws pertaining to working conditions of women, they approached Louis D. Brandeis, a successful Boston lawyer to argue their case in court. Brandeis was highly regarded for effectively arguing for the success of legal protection of people's social demands and represented an array of states in defending their hour and wage laws (Collins and Friesen 473).

Brandeis took over the case and requested the National League of Consumers to provide extensive information about the relationship between prolonged working hours at the factory and women's health. Florence and Josephine worked sleepless days and nights to generate a 113-page court document. This brief drew information from a caseload of sources including the medical sector.

What caused the court to rule the way it did

The progressive regime was an era of labor reforms, which lasted from 1890 to 1918 at the end of World War 1. Most federal and state laws controlling working conditions and employment root from this period. Therefore, in this case, the court's ruling was influenced by two major variables. First, the court held that women must be legally protected. The court argued that the society requires women to remain healthy so that they may produce children (Bloomfield 81). According to the court, this was not because women had demanded and won the right settle their own working conditions. They had to be protected because they are women. In this case, the court believed women must not be given rights as employees. This protection was determined by the beneficence of others and not earned by the collective power of women. In addition, the court proceeded that women workers must be given a great support by maternalist and the middle class progressive movements.

Secondly, the court's ruling was based on creating a legal difference between men and women. While women employees enjoyed more state protection, the finally lost their rights given to them by the constitution. This pushed Muller to argue that women must be given equal treatment to men and the freedom of contract. The victory of the women's protective legislation prompted a split in the U.S. women movements between those favoring women protection and those favoring equality between men and women.

The national league of consumers group preferred using women issues as a penetration wedge in expanding workplace protection for all employees. However, the movement also took a contradictory viewpoint that protective legislations were crucial in compensating female beneficiaries working in the fields. To protect the success of the protectionist, they came in defense of sexual discrimination in the workplace. On the other hand, The National Women's Movement supported equality in the workplace. In early 1940s, the implementation of the Fair Labor Standards Act brought gender neutrality workplace and favored women gains. This dispute between feminists supporting protection and feminists favoring workplace equality raged until the other group won in 1970s (Collins & Friesen 475).

Muller made a remarkable turning point in the legal history of America. Brandeis's court brief surpassed legal arguments creating a new field of sociological jurisprudence. The brief that Brandeis wrote in collaboration with the League of National Consumers used data from social scientists in the United States and Britain Bureau of labor statistics. This enabled Brandeis to argue that as opposed to legal matters, a connection exists between social welfare and long hours based on facts. Brandeis, who later became a judge of the Supreme Court, believed that the law must respond to facts and not just ideals (Spillenger 8).

Effects the court ruling has had on American society

The court ruling opened the door for most U.S. states to pass other laws regulating working conditions. The argument presented by Brandeis erected a new standard to present information in favor of reform laws that address social conditions. The court ruling also influenced reform laws. In favor of protecting business interests in 1923, the court ruled in Adkins vs. Children's Hospital that the state laws regulating working conditions violated the constitution (Hartman, Roy, and Cindy 144). However, in 1937, the court changed direction and upheld the minimum wage law for women in Washington, in the West Coast Hotel v. Parrish case. Essentially overturning the decision on Adkins and going back to Muller. The protection of freedom of contract declined favoring protection of safety and health of citizens. These developments saw the Congress legalize the Fair Labor Standards Act (1938, which extended to men the same hour and wage restrictions previously applied to women. In 1941, the court in United States v. Darby declared the constitutionality of minimum wage laws (Bloomfield 83).

However, many earnestly tried to protect women from deplorable work conditions welcomed the Muller decision: the decision deterred women from competing with men for positions. Women became associated with temporary, low-paying, and unskilled jobs. They could not work in mines and foundries, deliver mails, run elevators, work as conductors, and sell liquor (Collins and Friesen 48). Reacting to the Muller ruling, mainstream media published the advocates had been legally mandated to establish whether the Muller decision was in support or against the success of the cause. This ruling opened the path to extended state power to control workplaces based on sex difference. In 1920, the feminist issues continued unresolved while…

Cite This Thesis:

"Supreme Court Cases Muller V Oregon Women's" (2013, July 30) Retrieved January 17, 2018, from

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"Supreme Court Cases Muller V Oregon Women's", 30 July 2013, Accessed.17 January. 2018,