In the 1970s and 1980s, the U. Historical Background To reshape gender roles, women have had to overcome centuries of tradition, much of which originated in medieval England. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, the legal status of a married woman was fixed by Common Law. This legal definition of marriage persisted in the United States until the middle of the nineteenth century, when states enacted married women’s property acts. These acts conferred legal status upon wives and permitted them to own and transfer property in their own right, to sue and be sued, and to enter into contracts. Although these acts were significant advances, they dealt only with property a woman inherited.
The passage of the married women’s property acts resulted from the efforts of feminist reformers, including Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and susan b. The feminist political movement began in the nineteenth century with the call for female suffrage. At a convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, a group of women and men drafted and approved the Declaration of Sentiments. This declaration, which was modeled on the language and structure of the Declaration of Independence, was a Bill of Rights for women, including the right to vote.
The original draft of title VII of the act, which prohibits employment discrimination, limited its scope to discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin. Sex was not included as a “protected class” because supporters of the bill feared such a provision might kill the act itself. In February 1964 Representative Howard W. Smith, a powerful Democrat from Virginia, offered an amendment to include sex as a protected class. Supporters of the bill were suspicious of Smith’s motives, as he had, for three decades, consistently opposed Civil Rights laws prohibiting racial discrimination. Many suspected that he was including sex discrimination in title VII in an attempt to break the bipartisan consensus for the entire bill.
Smith, however, claimed he had no ulterior motive. Since 1945 Smith had been a sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment, which Paul had originally drafted in 1923. Smith said he had introduced the amendment to title VII at the request of Paul and the NWP. Sponsors of the bill urged that the amendment be defeated, but female representatives, such as Martha W. Griffiths of Michigan, led a bipartisan effort to adopt the amendment.
The amendment was passed by a vote of 164 to 133, with most southern Democrats voting for it. The Senate then adopted the House language. If Smith and the other southerners thought the amendment would scuttle the bill, they were mistaken. Supreme Court confronted the issue of sex discrimination in Bradwell v.
Illinois, but the Illinois Supreme Court refused to admit her to the bar because she was a woman. 1 vote, the Court rejected Bradwell’s argument. Though the majority opinion was on the argument that the Privileges and Immunities Clause applied only to matters involving U. Bradley and signed by two other justices revealed the cultural stereotypes that lay behind the legal analysis. By the late nineteenth century, mass immigration from Europe to the industrialized cities of the United States had resulted in many immigrant women seeking work in factories.