who was convicted by an all-male jury on a second degree murder charge, contested the legality of the statute by arguing that it violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. She had assaulted and killed her husband with a baseball bat during a quarrel in which, she said, he had humiliated her to the point of emotional and mental breakdown. She felt that a jury that included women might have better understood her state of being and her defense of temporary insanity. But a unanimous Supreme Court, relying largely on a line of reasoning that has been used since the founding of the country to undermine the rights of women, disagreed.
In neither respect can we conclude that Florida's statute is not "based on some reasonable classification", and that it is thus infected with unconstitutionality. Despite the enlightened emancipation of women from the restrictions and protections of bygone years, and their entry into many parts of community life formerly considered to be reserved to men, woman is still regarded as the center of home and family life. We cannot say that it is constitutionally impermissible for a State, acting in pursuit of the general welfare, to conclude that a woman should be relieved from the civil duty of jury service unless she herself determines that such service is consistent with her own special responsibilities.
Source: 368 U.S. 57 ( 1961).
After four long years of war ( 1941-1945), with its accompanying deprivation and dislocation, men and women were anxious to return to a normal life. This they interpreted as settling into family life, with men as the providers and women as homemakers taking care of the children. This traditional polarized image of the roles of middle-class men and women, failed, however, to take into account some of the important changes in the lives of women, among them the acquisition of the vote, their improved education, their successful performance, although often temporary, in men's work, and their increased work in all other areas including the professions. But the pressure to restore "the American way of life" was strong. As a consequence the postwar years saw an unprecedented decline in the age at which women married and a propaganda blitz idealizing the perfect woman.
Not all women accepted Madison Avenue's stereotype. Many re
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Publication information: Book title: Women's Rights in the United States:A Documentary History. Contributors: Winston E. Langley - Editor, Vivian C. Fox - Editor. Publisher: Praeger. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 267.
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