Women’s History – Equal Rights – Opposition?

“Dear Felix,
About a month ago I wrote Mrs. Florence Kelly giving the reasons for my opposition to the Women’s Party amendment to the Constitution.  I agree with you that it is a dangerous amendment, particularly at this time when the swing of the pendulum is away from legislation like the Minimum Wage Law. 
With Kindest regards and best wishes for the holiday, I am Sincerely yours,
Jesse Adkins ” 

Jesse Corcoran Adkins

The above is a letter to Felix Frankfurter by Jesse Corcoran Adkins (pictured), on December 19, 1921.  The letter is from the Judge Jesse Corcoran Adkins Papers in Special Collections.  In 1921 Felix Frankfurter was a professor at Harvard Law School and Jesse Adkins was a Georgetown Law faculty member and a member of the DC Minimum Wage Board.  It is unclear from the letter if Jesse Adkins is talking about the 19th Amendment to the Constitution or the Equal Rights Amendment, but what is clear is that both men saw it as taking the focus away from more important matters.   The Equal Rights Amendment was drafted by Alice Paul in or around 1923 and had been tested on the state level early in 1921, but would never make it to Congress until 1972. 

Both Alice Paul and Florence Kelley were very active in the women’s suffrage movement. In 1920 the 19th Amendment to the U.S Constitution passed.  The women’s suffrage movement had finally won women the right to vote.  Following the victory of the 19th Amendment, the National American Woman Suffrage Association transforms into the League of Women Voters and the National Woman’s Party established by Alice Paul.  Paul was able to garner substantial financial support for the National Woman’s Party and established their headquarters in Washington, DC.  She was a graduate of American University, receiving her JD in 1922 and her LLM in 1928.  She was the driving force in the continuation of women’s rights through the ongoing work of the National Woman’s Party and the Equal Rights Amendment. 

Select correspondence from Alice Paul and material on the National Woman’s Party can be found in the George Finch Collection, also available in Special Collections or more information can be found at the Library of Congress in the National Woman’s Party Records.  For more information on Felix Frankfurter, Jesse Adkins and Minimum Wage, see this great blog post by Dan Ernst on the Legal History Blog. Or for a closer look at either the George Finch Collection or the Judge Jesse Corcoran Adkins Papers, please contact Special Collections at specl@law.georgetown.edu .

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