President’s Commission on the Status of Women(USA)
Equality for women, on every level, has been an issue since time immemorial. Society has been constructed, from the very beginning, as patriarchal, men are on a higher run as compared to women in every regard. Naturally, this spikes a lot of resentment in the minds of women, which manifests as protests time and again.
Though the matter of equality is yet to be solved and indeed, there is a very long way to go before women are considered wholly equal to men in every regard the desire to do something concrete in this regard was expressed way back in 1961 when the then US President John F Kennedy started paying good heed to the questions that arose, pertaining to women’s equality ( or the lack of it) in education, professionally and legally.
To this effect, Kennedy took a giant leap of faith and established the President’s Commission on the Status of Women in December, 1961 which was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, till she died in 1962. She was the widow of former president Franklin D Roosevelt and had served as the US delegate to the United Nations. She had also been actively involved in establishing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and she had vociferously argued for women’s economic opportunities as well as a woman’s role as a home maker in the family. Therefore, Kennedy believed that she would be able to view the proceedings in a clear and unbiased way and also, be respected by those both for and against the commission.
The commission comprised of members who were actively involved in women’s rights and the committee intended to scrutinize carefully, the employment policies that were in place for women. They took up significant problems that women faced, including lack of education, more specifically, higher education, legal representation, lack of counselling for working women and tax and insurance laws for women that impacted their incomes.
There were those who demanded special legal protective rights for women workers, saying that it made it easier for women to work, they opined that since women were full time child-carers and housekeepers even if they were working professionally and demanded protection of women’s health including reproductive health. This called for restricting hours at work and bathroom facilities etc.
Some people were of the opinion that all these measures that were being taken might have been beneficial for women most definitely but they hampered their chances professionally as employers were encouraged not to hire women in the face of restrictions such as fewer working hours and went so far as to say that they were motivated not to hire women at all.
Kennedy wanted to establish equality of women for slightly selfish purposes of course, he wanted to see his country, the United States, compete with Russia and “win” in the arms race, in the race to space etc. and realised that America needed everybody, even the women. Whatever his motives, at least his actions set precedence for the other numerous movements for women’s rights and equality that followed.