erik lundegaard

Wednesday August 06, 2014

How Gender was Added to the 1964 Civil Rights Act

The New Yorker's Louis Menand, reviewing Clay Risen's “The Bill of the Century” and Todd Purnam's “An Idea Whose Time Has Come,” has a good article, “The Sex Amendment,” on how gender was added to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and thus changed the world. It's less heroic than you might think. Would you believe it was added by an anti-union, pro-business Republican congressman from Virginia?

Menand also goes into the history of women and African Americans—specifically white women and African-American men—butting heads over who should go first through the doorway in the battle for equal rights. He quotes Frederick Douglass speaking at an American Equal Rights Association meeting in 1869 about how women should have the same urgency for equal rights when they're hunted down, lynched, etc. Susan B. Anthony then responded thus in favor of women's rights first:

If you will not give the whole loaf of suffrage to the entire people, give it to the most intelligent first. If intelligence, justice, and morality are to have precedence in the Government, let the question of woman be brought up first and that of the negro last.

Yeah: Susan B. Anthony. Which just goes to show that even if you're on the right side of history doesn't mean you're on the right side of all history.

Posted at 04:32 PM on Wednesday August 06, 2014 in category U.S. History  
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