Monday, June 15, 2015

Woloch's "Class by Herself"

Just out is Nancy Woloch’s A Class by Herself: Protective Laws for Women Workers, 1890s-1990s (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015):
A Class by Herself explores the historical role and influence of protective legislation for American women workers, both as a step toward modern labor standards and as a barrier to equal rights. Spanning the twentieth century, the book tracks the rise and fall of women-only state protective laws—such as maximum hour laws, minimum wage laws, and night work laws—from their roots in progressive reform through the passage of New Deal labor law to the feminist attack on single-sex protective laws in the 1960s and 1970s.

Nancy Woloch considers the network of institutions that promoted women-only protective laws, such as the National Consumers’ League and the federal Women’s Bureau; the global context in which the laws arose; the challenges that proponents faced; the rationales they espoused; the opposition that evolved; the impact of protective laws in ever-changing circumstances; and their dismantling in the wake of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Above all, Woloch examines the constitutional conversation that the laws provoked—the debates that arose in the courts and in the women’s movement. Protective laws set precedents that led to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and to current labor law; they also sustained a tradition of gendered law that abridged citizenship and impeded equality for much of the century.
Drawing on decades of scholarship, institutional and legal records, and personal accounts, A Class by Herself sets forth a new narrative about the tensions inherent in women-only protective labor laws and their consequences.
The TOC is here.  Readers say:
"A monumental contribution to the history of gendered labor law, Woloch's clear and authoritative guide to this complex topic provides a solid foundation for future scholars. Its commanding perspective offers effective summaries, astute interpretations, and thoughtful connections across a century of social, economic, and political change. This is a book of enduring value to historians, legal scholars, and everyone interested in fairness in the workplace."--Kathryn Kish Sklar, author of Florence Kelley and the Nation's Work

"Rarely are we fortunate enough to get such a careful and nuanced exploration of such an important subject. Woloch moves well beyond polemics to help us genuinely understand the complexities of issues that remain in a class by themselves in terms of their significance in American legal and political history. Woloch's chronological reach is especially impressive, ultimately helping us to understand the many different conceptions of 'progressive' politics that have enlivened modern America."--Robert D. Johnston, author of The Radical Middle Class

"How did women move from the border of belonging to the center of the struggle for equality? Many historians have tackled pieces of the story, but nobody has traced the history of single-sex protective legislation from its conception to its disintegration until now. Well-researched, elegantly composed, and persuasive, A Class by Herself is a sterling account of one of the great issues in American women’s history."--Alice Kessler-Harris, Columbia University