Are there valid grounds for the special protection of women in industry? As the preceding pages have shown, this question has been answered in the affirmative many times by the courts and, although it appears to have long been considered settled, it is the subject of a growing controversy among women themselves. What, then, is the basis for the controversy, why has it arisen, and who take the opposing sides? It is never an easy matter to state accurately what people believe, and it is practically impossible to analyse motives at long range. But because of the importance of the matters in dispute, let us, allowing for a margin of error, make an attempt to discover what the issue really is.
In the tracing of various influences that have resulted in these special laws for women, it has become plain that they sprang from the conviction that in their dealings with employers, women are not so able to take care of themselves as are men. One classic explanation of this inability is the extreme youth of gainfully employed women, and, turning to age records, we find support for this contention. According to the United States census for 1920, we find that, of all gainfully employed females ten years of age and over, a little over one-fifth (21.7 per cent) were under 20 years, and another fifth or 42.8 per cent in all, were under the age of 25. For New York State, the returns were about the same -- 19.8 per cent of the employed females were under 20 years of age and 42.4 per cent were under 25 years.