The Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act Reminds Us to Keep Working to Close the Gender Pay Gap

Aug 27 2018

The Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act Reminds Us to Keep Working to Close the Gender Pay Gap

Article from: aflcio.org

By: Kenneth Quinnell

In the early 20th century, women were about 25% of the workforce. Women workers were paid far less than men in those cases where women were allowed to do jobs that men did. Some states limited the hours that women could work, some going as far as to ban women from working at night.

When women started moving into the workforce in larger numbers during World War II, activists stepped up their efforts to increase pay for women workers, leading to the National War Labor Board endorsing equal pay for women who were replacing male workers who were at war. In 1945, Congress introduced the Women’s Equal Pay Act, but it failed to pass, despite valiant efforts from advocates to win support.

By 1960, some progress had been made, but women were still paid less than two-thirds for the same work. During President John F. Kennedy’s administration, things started to fall into place. Esther Peterson, who ran the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor, endorsed legislation to close the pay gap, as did former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Pro-corporate forces fought the passage of the law, but it finally prevailed in 1963.

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