Many women joined the women’s club movement, they could meet to improve themselves, & talk about social issues and current events. Associations like General Federation of Women’s Clubs emerged. Women still upheld the tradition of being a wife and mother, and most issues they talked about were ones which affected their maternal duties. Female activists joined organizations like the Women’s Trade Union League, National Consumers League, Children’s Bureau, and Women’s Bureau. These federal advances gave women a national stage. Women were also part of factory reform and temperance. Florence Kelley became Illinois’ first chief factory inspector and advocated for improved factory conditions. She took control of the National Consumers League in 1899, which fought for laws protecting women and children in the workplace. In Muller v. Oregon (1908), Louis D. Brandeis persuaded the Supreme Court to accept the constitutionality of laws protecting women workers. This could seem discriminatory to men, but at the time he was hailed as a hero. It seemed that more focus was on protecting women/children than all. In 1905, the case of Lochner v. New York invalidated a New York law establishing a 10 hour day for bakers. But the reformers won in 1917 when the Court upheld a 10 hour day for factory workers. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in New York caused great agitation and massive strike by women in needle trades. A combination of violated fire codes and a locked door led to the death of 146. New York legislature passed stronger laws regulating the hours and conditions of sweatshops. By 1917, 30 states had made laws concerning workers’ compensation, and the concept of the employer’s responsibility to society was replacing the concept of unregulated free enterprise.
Corner saloons attracted the agitation of progressives, as they were the site of drinking and prostitution. Support came from organizations like the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Its leader, Frances E. Willard, built it into the largest organization of women in the world. She allied herself with the Anti-Saloon League, which was aggressive and well financed. Some states responded with “dry” laws, which controlled, restricted or abolished alcohol. Big cities were generally still “wet.” Alcohol would be banned temporarily by the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919. Examining the Evidence To historians, court cases provide accounts of ordinary men and women in the legal system and show the tactics that lawyers and judges employ. In the case of Muller v. Oregon , the Supreme Court records show how a supervisor of Curt Muller’s Grand Laundry in Portland asked a female employee, Mrs. E. Gotcher to remain after hours to do an extra load of laundry. This violated Oregon’s 10 hour day law for women. Muller was fined $10 and refused to pay, bringing his case to the Supreme Court. The Court held up the constitutionality of the law and Muller had to pay the fine.
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