Civilizing Capitalism: The National Consumers' League, Women's Activism, and Labor Standards in the New Deal Era

By Landon R. Y. Storrs | Go to book overview

chapter 2

Toward Feminist
Social Democracy
The Entering
Wedge Strategy

For several decades after the First World War, one of the most vociferous foes of the Consumers' League was another women's organization. In the early 1920s opposition to the principle of women-only labor laws crystallized in the National Woman's Party (NWP). Formerly a suffrage group, the Woman's Party decided that an equal rights amendment to the Constitution was its next priority. Because an ERA would have invalidated women-only labor legislation, virtually every member of the NCL and its network opposed the amendment through the New Deal years and beyond. By the end of the 1930s both sides would be incredulous that the battle boiled on. Each accused the other of opposition out of pure habit. One participant characterized the controversy as "a perennial headache consuming time, energy, paper . . . and much language." 1 Many scholars might sympathize with her assessment. But this protracted conflict was not just an "irrelevant wrangle," dragged out by personal rivalries or ossified thinking. Nor was it about whether women and men were ultimately alike or essentially different. 2 Because this bitter postsuffrage split among women's

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