In today’s nanny culture, where individuals are deemed
incapable of looking out for their own interests and government is supposedly
looking out for everyone’s welfare, wage and hour legislation is an accepted
commonplace. But this was not always so.
Back in 1903, the enlightened State of Oregon enacted a law regulating the working
hours of women, a supposedly noble endeavor designed to protect the “weaker
sex” from exploitation.
The statute provided that “. . . no female [shall] be
employed in any mechanical establishment, or factory, or laundry in this state
more than ten hours during any one day.”
One September day in 1905, Mrs. E. Gotcher (yes, that was
really her name) did the unthinkable: in one day she worked more than ten hours
at the Grand Laundry. The laundry’s
owner was charged with violation of the statute, a misdemeanor, and convicted.
Not surprisingly, his conviction was upheld by the Oregon courts, which
made short shrift of his argument that the law was unconstitutional. Next stop, the Supreme Court of the United States.
There, the question for the justices was whether an adult
woman in the Twentieth Century United States could freely choose to work more
than ten hours a day at the proscribed activities, whatever her reasons (e.g., money,
learning, advancement, satisfaction) or whether the State of Oregon knew better
what was good for Mrs. Gotcher and could impose its values on her and the
The Court upheld the Oregon statute, to the loud cheers of
liberals who applauded that body’s enlightened concern for working women who
apparently either did not know or could not protect their own interests.
But if the decision’s partisans (especially women) had paid
attention to the Court’s reasons for
its decision in Muller v. Oregon 
they probably would not have cheered so loudly, if at all. Indeed, if they really understood the
decision, they should have been appalled.
Muller v. Oregon
was a unanimous decision—one that today’s
feminists should take no comfort from.
To quote the Court:
That woman’s physical structure and
the performance of material functions places her at a disadvantage in the
struggle for subsistence is obvious.
This is especially true when the burdens of motherhood are upon
her. Even when they are not . . .
continuance for a long time on her feet at work . . . tends to injurious
effects upon the body, and, as healthy mothers are essential to vigorous
offspring, the physical wellbeing of
women becomes an object of public interest and care in order to preserve the
strength of the race. (My emphasis.)
This patronizing, collectivist view of American working
women was not all the Court had to say about the weakness of women and their
relationship to a paternalistic state.
Still again, history discloses the
fact that woman has always been dependent
upon man. He established his control
at the outset by superior physical strength, and this control in various forms
. . . has continued to the present. * * * It is still true that in the struggle
for subsistence she is not an equal competitor with her brother [meaning, any
man]. Though limitations upon personal
and contractual rights may be removed by legislation there is that in her disposition and habits of life which will operate
against a full assertion of those rights.
It was bad enough that in upholding the statute the Court,
allegedly worried about subsistence, was limiting the working hours of those
trying to subsist. Much worse was the
Court’s view of working women as weak, timid, and dependent—even cowardly, in
being unable or unwilling to assert their “rights.” Lest there be any doubt that that’s what the unanimous Court was saying:
[Woman] is so constituted that she will rest
upon and look to [man] for protection; that her physical structure and a proper
discharge of her maternal functions—having in view not merely her own health,
but the well-being of the race—justify
legislation to protect her from the greed as well as the passion of man. 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 for the benefit of all. (My emphasis.)
This is nothing short of collectivism squared, and is the
same rationale that underlay the monstrous program that would come later in Nazi
Germany: “Hitler’s Children.”
On March 20, 2000, Joshua Hammer, an experienced journalist,
wrote an article for Newsweek International
entitled “Hitler’s Children,” whose subtitled read: “They were the offspring of
a Nazi program to create a racially pure ‘Master Race’.”
He wrote of a woman named Helga Kahrau:
Her parents barely knew one another. An ardent
Nazi, her mother met Helga's father, a German Army officer, in Berlin at a party celebrating Hitler's conquest of France in June
1940. They had a one-night stand, and nine months later Mathilde gave birth in
a “Lebensborn,” or “Source of Life,” home outside Munich. The home was one of several set up by
Heinrich Himmler's dreaded SS [chief] to care for unmarried pregnant women
whose racial characteristics, blond hair, blue eyes, no Jewish ancestry, fit
the Nazis’ Aryan ideal. At birth, Helga was anointed as one of the Fuhrer's
elect, part of a generation of “racially pure” children who would populate the
German Empire as it ruled a conquered Europe
for the life of the 1,000-year Reich. (My emphasis.)
No doubt some will say that the connection between the Supreme Court’s
rationale in Muller v. Oregon
and the Nazi “master race” program is, at best, tenuous.
They are mistaken.
To hold women’s “physical well-being” and their production of “vigorous
offspring” to be matters of “public interest” so as to “preserve the strength
and vigor of the race” is to consider women, as did the Nazis, as a mere state
resource—important to the state for their procreational capacity, to be
nurtured much like livestock, and for the same reason.
The rationale underlying the Supreme Court’s decision in Muller v. Oregon
transcends mere collectivism and even statism, “isms” that deny and negate any
possibility of individual rights. In Muller the Supreme Court, perhaps
knowingly, perhaps not, gave voice to a doctrine evil in its intent and
murderous in its application: the belief that human beings, in that case women,
were mere resources to be used, abused, and ultimately disposed of by those
holding political power.
Muller v. Oregon was decided by the
Supreme Court of the United
States in 1908. Less than three decades later, the case’s
rationale was on display in Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
 208 U.S.