'Where Women Stand': Progress for All

The series "Where Women Stand" (July 16 to 22) was excellent. The progress achieved in women's rights during the past 150 years should be acknowledged and appreciated by both men and women.

Equality between men and women should be perceived not as a threat but as an expression of liberation that benefits everyone. The comment by Christina Hoff Sommers in the article "The Changing Face of Feminism" (July 20) deserves to be repeated: "Men and women have to approach one another with respect and the spirit of friendship."

Alistair Budd

Lindenfels, Germany

The other day you ran an article about the disparity in pay between women and men - "Another Day, Another 75 Cents" (July 17) in the women's rights series.

For many years I have been a firm believer in equal pay for equal responsibility. I am in complete agreement that the cleaning lady in your article should be paid the same as the cleaning men with comparable duties and responsibilities.

I object to your use of the meaningless graphs showing women's wages versus men's wages without regard to duties and responsibilities. There are many reasons why men are paid more than women when all kinds of dissimilar jobs are lumped together. Unfortunately, there seems to be a message here that women continue to be the victims of male discrimination and suppression.

A more effective presentation would deal with the considerable progress that women are making and their access to management.

Joe B. Clarke Jr

Lafayette, La.

This comment is in reference to an error made in the "Landmarks for Women" (July 17) time line in the series "Where Women Stand." Under the year 1908, the time line reads, "US Supreme Court declares unconstitutional protective legislation for women workers." In that landmark 1908 case, Muller v. Oregon, the court found that, in fact, protective labor laws for women were constitutional. This was the first Supreme Court decision recognizing nonlegal factors or sociological jurisprudence.

In the Muller decision, the court unanimously asserted that "Differentiated ... from the other sex, she [woman] is properly placed in a class by herself, and legislation designed for her protection may be sustained, even when like legislation is not necessary for men.... This difference justifies a difference in legislation and upholds that which is designed to compensate for some of the burdens which rest upon her."

By declaring protective legislation constitutional, the Muller decision both advanced modern labor standards and was a setback to sexual equality. Consequently, the women's movement was divided by those advocating protective laws for women versus those supporting women's equal rights with men.

Clara M. Levers

Woodland, Calif.

Editor's Note: Ms. Levers is correct that the legislation was upheld in the 1908 decision.

Though I am a resident of Geneva, N.Y., a 10-minute drive from Seneca Falls, N.Y., on July 15 I found myself on a plane to Australia and so missed the 150th-anniversary celebration of the women's rights convention.

However, I found the audio and photo tour of the event by Monitor photographer Melanie Stetson Freeman and Monitor reporter Jane Lampman in the e-Monitor, your Web site, a moving mixture of the personal and the profound.

The "Where Women Stand" series ranks with some of the best material that I have seen on the the Web. Congratulations!

Kevin Mitchell

Queensland, Australia

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