Minimum wage was introduced to reduce the employment of women

The minimum wage is a rare policy bird. Its employment effects change at the whim of its latest proponents.

Minimum wages were initially introduced in the USA shortly after 1900 solely for women and children. The express aim was to price women out of jobs and raise men’s wages by enough so that they could provide for their families.

These days, some argue that minimum wages actually increase employment. Times change, and the slopes of supply and demand curves must change with them.

Tim Leonard in Protecting Family and Race The Progressive Case for Regulating Women’s Work showed that these women-only minimum wages were justified by political progressive including women on grounds that they would:

(1) Protect the biologically weaker sex from the hazards of market work;

(2) Protect working women from the temptation of prostitution;

(3) Protect male heads of household from the economic competition of women; and

(4) Ensure that women could better carry out their eugenic duties as “mothers of the race.”

The above photo from the Minnesota Post has the following caption:

Fuelled by the Progressive Era, Minnesota becomes one of the first dozen states to pass a law establishing work standards for women and children and established a Minimum Wage Commission.

Women-only minimum wage laws were held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1923 but were upheld by a Progressive-dominated Supreme Court in 1937. In the 1930s depression, single-sex, state minimum-wage laws were revived and flourished.

Xenophobia, race prejudice, and sexism should come as no surprise to any student of left-wing politics. Progressive politics in the first half of the 20th century was infested with racism:

  • The support of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), and in the USA, the Democratic Party, for vicious, state-sponsored racism is well known.
  • The ALP supported the passing of the White Australia policy with glee in 1901 by the newly formed Federal Parliament.

As Tim Leonard has shown, in days gone by, budding progressives not only revelled in exposes of capitalistic barons and attacks on laissez-faire economics by muckraking journalists, they also poured over racist tracts that drew on the latest anthropology, biology, psychology, sociology, eugenics, and medical science. Social Democrat Party Sweden practised eugenics until the 1960s.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jim Rose
    Sep 11, 2015 @ 20:23:48

    Reblogged this on Utopia – you are standing in it! and commented:

    The Washington Centre for Equitable Growth has written a deeply misleading intellectual history of the minimum wage.

    There is no doubt about it: the minimum wage for women only was introduced Progressive Era to reduce competition from women for jobs. The advocates for a minimum wage for women only were very blunt about that at the time.

    Like

    Reply

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