Curt Muller, a laundry owner, appealed to the Oregon and U.S. Supreme Courts after he was fined $10 for making a female employee work more than ten hours in a day. At the time, Oregon labor laws required that women work no more than ten hours in a day, in an effort to protect their “physical structure and the performance of maternal functions.” The ten-hour law for women did not apply to all women— it did not include women of color, food processors, agricultural workers, or white-collar workers.
Ultimately, the Court upheld the Oregon regulation. The ruling reinforced gender stereotypes which also had the effect of limiting women’s equal opportunity to negotiate contact equal to that of their male counterparts. While some equal rights feminists recognized the need for safe working conditions for all, feminist groups largely viewed the precedent as reinforcing gender stereotypes that threatened women’s rights and financial independence.Back to top
a Court of men
a woman's rights
as well as the passion, of man.
The limitations upon her
are imposed solely
to maintain the
lack of equality
“The limitations which this statute places upon her contractual powers, upon her right to agree with her employer as to the time she shall labor, are not imposed solely for her benefit, but also largely for the benefit of all.”