Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty-three years ago today, December 14, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10980 establishing the Interdepartmental Commission on the Status of Women and the Citizen's Council on the Status of Women.
The President's Commission on the Status of Women, composed of 26 members (15 women and 11 men), was headed by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Mrs. Roosevelt and Frank Sinatra
Girl's Town Ball
March 12, 1960
Some of the tasks of the Presidential commission included to review progress and make recommendations in...
--Employment policies and practices under Federal contracts
--Federal social insurance and tax laws as they impact women's income
--Federal and State labor laws dealing with hours, night work and wages
--Differences in legal treatment of men and women
Upon signing the order, JFK said...
"Women should not be considered a marginal group to be employed periodically only to be denied opportunities to satisfy their needs and aspirations."
The idea for the President's commission was presented by Esther Peterson*, Director of the Department of Labor Women's Bureau. Mrs. Peterson became the Executive Vice-Chairman of the commission and assumed direction of the body after Mrs. Roosevelt's death in 1962.
On October 11, 1963, a statement was released by the White House which paid tribute to the contributions of Eleanor Roosevelt in the cause for women's equality. It said that Mrs. Roosevelt's
"devotion to fuller realization of the abilities of women raised the status of women everywhere."
Prior to JFK's Executive Order, legislation aimed at protecting women's safety and freedom from exploitation had been used to either deny women employment or pay those hired a lower wage.
In October 1963, the Commission issued a report on "American Women in 1963" critical of the continued inequalities facing women in the United States and said that the work for women's equality in the workplace had just begun.
The work of the Commission was continued by the Association of Commissions of the Status of Women in 1975. It became the National Association of Commissions for Women which is still active today. Their website can be accessed as www.nacw.org/
*Esther Peterson (1906-1997) was a consumer and women's rights advocate. She graduated from BYU and the Teacher's College of Columbia University and taught at the Winsor School in Boston.
EP was the first lobbyist for the National Labor Relation's Board and served with her husband as a diplomat in Sweden. She received the President's Medal of Freedom in 1981.
National Association of Commissions for Women, www.nacw.org/
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