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The Unsustainable American State$

Lawrence Jacobs and Desmond King

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195392135

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195392135.001.0001

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Moving Feminist Activists Inside the American State

Moving Feminist Activists Inside the American State

The Rise of a State-Movement Intersection and Its Effects on State Policy

Chapter:
(p.223) 9 Moving Feminist Activists Inside the American State
Source:
The Unsustainable American State
Author(s):

Lee Ann Banaszak

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195392135.003.0009

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the historic roots of feminist activists in the United States and the consequences of this that lead to the development of the American state. It begins by conceptualizing feminist activists within the state as a state-movement intersection and then proceeds on presenting the role that the historical development of state and society can play in allowing other interests into the state. The changing nature of women's education and employment is then discussed and the chapter looks at how they attained significant presence in the federal bureaucracy. Due to the increasing number of feminist activist around during the period under discussion in this chapter, numerous changes in the nature of the federal government transpired.

Keywords:   feminist activists, American state, federal bureaucracy, federal government

For all these years, Catherine East of the Women's Bureau of the Labor Department has been the pivot of the feminist underground in Washington spreading from government agencies to Capitol Hill. Midwife to the birth of the women's movement, she has served its development with research, intelligence, and alerts to sabotage or strategic possibilities that the movement itself would never have been able to afford. She never violated any Government Secrets Act, but if it had been known by her superiors in the Women's Bureau how actively she was supporting and servicing the organization of an independent, activist women's movement, she would have been fired.

—Betty Friedan (1998, 95)

Introduction

In her praise of Catherine East, Betty Friedan points to the existence of a group of feminist activists spread throughout government institutions in Washington, D.C. These activists worked from inside the state as feminists to alter the policies of the American state on a number of issues important to feminists, including the enforcement of equal pay laws, building opportunities for women to play sports, and the creation of foreign policies that focused on women. Feminist activists inside the state were important actors in achieving all of these policies. They championed important sex discrimination cases through the legal system and organized protests against the Equal (p.224) Employment Opportunity Commission (Banaszak n.d., 2005; Paterson 1986; Pressman Fuentes 1999). They marshaled feminist organizations in support of Title IX, providing them with important information that allowed out-sider feminists to demand the regulations that would become the backbone of women's equity in sports (Banaszak, n.d.; Millsap 1988). They worked with members of Congress to encourage foreign policy legislation that would include a specific focus on women (Fraser 2004; Tinker 1983). While none of these policies fundamentally altered the nature of the American state, they had enormous consequences for the gender order of the United States (see Ritter 2006 for the concept of the gender order), even as they left untouched its existing racial and class hierarchies. For example, these policies transformed norms of the relationship between women and work, yet they had fewer effects on stereotypes of poor women or women of color.

The networks of feminist activists inside the American state that helped render these changes were not a result of the mobilization of the women's movement during the mid-1960s. Rather, these networks of feminist activists were already located in many places in the federal government in 1960; indeed, networks of feminist activists inside the state helped to mobilize the women's movement through their activism (Banaszak n.d.; Duerst-Lahti 1989; Pedriana 2004). The existence of this intersection between the women's movement and the state was a major advantage to the movement, as it had supporters already well placed to take advantage of the burgeoning interest in feminist policies and the increasing mobilization of women and allies at the beginning of the second wave. Skrentny (2006) argues that gender equality was less legitimate than racial equality in the American state of the early 1960s. But what he misses is that the existence of feminist activists inside the state allowed the women's movement to quickly alter the playing field.

This chapter examines in broad strokes the historic roots of feminist activists in the state and their consequences for the development of the American state. I will argue that three factors were crucial to these women entering government service and developing the social networks that allowed them to mobilize as feminists. First, large-scale changes in women's education and employment created a pool of working professional women who chose government service as a means of pursuing the careers they desired. Second, changes in the nature of the U.S. bureaucracy—both permanent in the move toward a civil service, and temporary, as when government burgeoned during wartime—created opportunities for professional women within the state. Third, the continued activity of feminist organizations throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s provided extensive networks of women activists, allowing women bureaucrats to participate in networks of activism even prior to the mobilization of the second wave in the 1960s.

The consequences for the American state were not just a change in policies toward women. The activism of feminist activists in the state illustrates (p.225) the contradictions that are inherent in the American state. Like all individuals who occupy positions within the state, feminists bring with them interests that shape policies and their implementation. While state theorists have focused largely on class control of the state (see for example Miliband 1969), in fact, there are a number of other intersecting biases within the American state (see, for example, King and Smith 2005 on racial hierarchies, and Ritter 2006 on the gender order of the Constitution). Even though feminist activists within the federal bureaucracy focused on policies that often reinforced the existing class bias of the state, they also introduced a source of contradiction as these state actors injected feminist ideology into their state actions creating conflict within the state on issues of gender.

In this chapter, I begin by conceptualizing feminist activists within the state as a state-movement intersection and discussing the role that the historical development of state and society can play in allowing other interests into the state. The following three sections describe the historical developments that contributed to the creation of a network of feminist activists in the federal bureaucracy, focusing specifically on how this set the women's movement apart from the civil rights movement, which lacked the structural opportunities for a network inside the state during its initial mobilization. I then briefly discuss how feminist activists in the federal bureaucracy were essential to the mobilization of the women's movement, and to many of its lasting achievements. I conclude with a discussion of how these developments help us understand both the disproportionate response to middle- and upper-class interests, as well as some of the contradictions inherent in the actions of the American state.

Conceptualizing Feminist Activists Inside the American State

State scholars have generally been less concerned with the entrée of groups into parts of the state, in large part because the literature on the state focuses on state interests as independent from those of individual groups. Seen as a corrective to pluralist theories that do not acknowledge the state as an independent entity or the existence of separate state interests, where theories of the state deal with societal interests the debate has largely focused on whether class interests drive state actions. Yet, society has many other social cleavages that create inequality such as race and gender, and these intersect rather than reinforce class interests. As such examinations of the dominance of class interests within the state do not speak to the role of other interests. In this chapter, I examine the role of gender interests by focusing on feminist activists inside the state. I see this network of feminist activists as representing an intersection between the feminist movement and the state.1

(p.226) While the state as a whole has specific interests, it is also complex, composed of many institutions (Miliband 1969). Many of these institutions have additional interests, resulting in “a set of pluralistic goals” (Zald and Berger 1987[1978], 218) that can lead state actors to act in opposition to each other (Rockman 1990). For example, state actors have interests both in the maintenance of the state as a whole and in furthering the particular part of the state they inhabit (Carpenter 2001; Evans, Reuschemeyer, and Skocpol 1985). In the United States, the later interest may lead state actors to respond to some societal interests, depending on the specific array of electoral and political institutional arrangements. Moreover, these interests develop in a historical process where they are redefined, refined, augmented, or combined through continual contestation within society, between state and society and between different constituent parts of the state (Pierson 1993; Rockman 1990). Thus, any particular state agency, department, bureau, or office has a specific set of historically defined interests that may be closer or far away from the interests of a social movement. Moreover, the individuals who occupy positions within the state also bring with them interests that can shape policies and their implementation.

The complex nature of the state and the multiple, potentially conflicting interests that are connected to state actors allow intersections between movements and states to play a role in the creation of state policies. Not only can such intersections “capture” particular parts of the state, but movement activists within the state may influence particular policies in ways that, while not contradicting elemental state interests, may nonetheless have large influences on the gender inequalities perpetrated by state policies. While the effects on state interests are relatively small, they may be fundamentally important in creating and maintaining social change (Skrentny 2006, 2002). For example, the introduction of Title IX, a law requiring equity in education, and the rules that implemented this law did not change the essential character of the state. Yet, the specific provisions of the law and the rules that implemented it are vitally important in fundamentally altering not only intercollegiate sports, but the sports industry and our gendered conceptions of athleticism.2 Thus, as Zald and Berger (1987 [1978], 200) note in discussing movements within other bureaucracies: “Often…insurgency operates in gray areas where organizational behavior has not been explicitly prescribed,” allowing the movement activists to “establish their own definition of the situation or shift the weighting of priorities.” The complexity of the state, along with the ability of state personnel to interject other interests, undoubtedly leads to contradictions within the state in administration of policy, even as it allows the interjection of some social movement goals.

If the personnel of the state can have such influence, who is recruited into these positions is of critical importance. As explained below, feminist activists gained entrée into the state through the confluence of three factors—specific (p.227) historical or demographic trends in the United States that created a pool of well-educated, middle-class women seeking employment; the needs and interests of the state that led it to recruit these women; and the influence of the first wave of the women's movement, which maintained a network among the women who were recruited, even as it also pushed the state to incorporate women at policy-making ranks. But it is important to recognize the limitations of these factors. Feminist activists recruited into the state were middle-class and as such they continued to represent their class interests in the demands that they made. They were also largely white, which means that the racial order of the U.S. government remained undisturbed and that the feminist activists inside the state effectively represented white women's interests. Indeed, recruitment of African Americans into the federal bureaucracy was considerably different. As a result, as the women's movement mobilized during the mid-1960s, networks of feminist activists were already located in many places in the federal government, while the same was not true for African Americans. The existence of this intersection between the women's movement and the state was one of the major advantages enjoyed by the movement; consequently, feminist activists within the state played a major role in changing the gender order of the state during these crucial years.

The Changing Nature of Women's Education and Employment

Women could not have achieved a significant presence in the federal bureaucracy had they not experienced substantial gains in education and employment. Of particular importance for feminist activists within the state was women's experience within the legal profession, because many feminist activists within the state are lawyers. One reason for the concentration of women lawyers within government bureaucracy was their experiences in the legal profession. Although women entered law school in increasingly large numbers in the 1950s, few outlets in private practice were open to them. The result was (and continues to be) a large movement of women lawyers into government. In comparison, in the 1940s and 1950s, the federal bureaucracy was almost completely closed to African Americans lawyers, meaning that black civil rights activists, especially those in the law, were completely excluded from government.

Women's Education and Employment

Although the 1950s stereotype of white women was one of happy home-makers attentive to the house and children, in fact the long-term changes (p.228) in women's education and employment made women active outside of the home in this period. Even when the proportion of women among students receiving college and graduate degrees dropped in the 1950s and 1960s, the actual number of women in postsecondary education climbed, outstripped only by the flood of veterans taking advantage of the GI Bill (Sapiro 1994, 129; Ware 1981, 22). By the mid-1970s, women high school graduates were attending college at the same rate as their male counterparts (Ford 2002, 183). Women's employment statistics heading into the 1960s also showed that women were working in increasing numbers. In 1950, one-third of all women over the age of 16 were in the paid labor force (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1975, 128). By 1960, as the second wave of the women's movement began, almost one-third of married women were working outside the home, and the proportion of widowed, divorced or separated women who were working was even higher (Ries and Stone 1992, 320).3 The percentage of married women in the labor force doubled by the end of the twentieth century (U.S. Bureau of the Census 2002, 372).

These changes have implications for two specific aspects of our story. First, as women's education and employment increased, more and more women began to work for the federal government. Indeed, as we shall see below, even though the federal government discriminated against women, it was in many ways more open to women employees than the private sector. Second, women's employment and education also created an increasing need for action on many feminist issues, giving rise to political concerns about family and maternity leave and the quality of child care facilities, as well as spurring much of the activism on issues of women's employment.

Women Lawyers

As a group, women lawyers were particularly attracted to federal employment and constituted a large number of the women at the more senior ranks of the bureaucracy in the early years of the second wave women's movement. The rise in the number of women lawyers in the ranks of the federal bureaucracy partially reflected an increase in the number of women lawyers overall. While law schools were relatively closed to women, the number and proportion of women in the profession of law grew modestly between 1920 and 1970. In 1920, women constituted 1.4 percent of the legal profession while by 1970 that number had risen to 4.7 percent (see Table 9.1). These modest changes in proportion hide an almost tenfold increase between 1920 and 1970 in the number of women lawyers, because the legal profession expanded greatly during these years.

Despite this expansion, discrimination against women in the law was widespread. Most law schools had informal quotas limiting the number of (p.229)

Table 9.1. The Number of Women in the Law Profession, 1910–2000

Year

Number

Percentage

1910

558

0.4

1920

1,738

1.4

1930

3,385

2.1

1940

4,447

2.4

1950

6,348

3.5

1960

7,543

3.3

1970

13,000

4.7

1980

72,312

13.8

1990

190,145

24.4

Source: 1910: U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1940: 16th Census of the United States: Population: The Labor Force (Sample Statistics): Usual Occupation. Table 9 and Table 10. 1920–1970: Epstein (1993): 4; see also Drachman (1998): 253. 1980: Calculated from 1980 Census of the Population. Vol. 1. Characteristics of the Population. Individual State Reports. Table 219. 1990: 1990 Census of Population, Table 2

women in the entering class (Epstein 1993, chapter 3). As one graduate of an Ivy League law school noted:

“Every single…class had had 6 [women] or under until our class, which had 13 out of 180. And people said that our class was like the sky was falling. That it was an accident because there were a couple of people in our class who had men's names. So they said that those people had been accidentally admitted. At the time people were alarmed. And the class after us had 6. And then it continued that way until there was this sudden increase in the number of women that came to law school.” (Interview, June 25, 2004)

Marguerite Rawalt, a long-time Internal Revenue Service attorney, noted that she was one of only 3 or 4 women in her class at George Washington University (Chester 1985, 75). When women gained admission, they were told that they should not be there, and that they were unlikely to have careers in the law (Epstein 1993, 52). Moreover, some elite law schools—Harvard, Notre Dame, and Washington and Lee for example—did not admit any women until the 1950s (Epstein 1993, 50). For many women employed by the federal government, the ability to study law part-time in the D.C. area was especially important. In the pre–World War II period, Howard University was the first DC law school to accept women4 (Drachmann 1998, 152). The Washington College of Law, which later became American University's Law School, opened in 1898 originally to offer white women an alternative to Howard (Drachmann 1998, 150–2; Chester 1985), but many of the other (p.230) part-time law schools remain closed to women either officially or by maintaining stringent quotas.

Women law school graduates faced enormous discrimination when trying to find a position. Describing her search for a position with a law firm, Sonia Pressman Fuentes, one of the first women lawyers in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), noted that two interviewers offered her jobs as a secretary or receptionist, another asked her point blank how he would know she wouldn't get pregnant, and a third suggested that she marry him and become co-partner in the firm in that way (1999, 119–22). Fellow women law students told Marguerite Rawalt: “You'll never make a lot of money hanging up a shingle by yourself. There isn't a law firm in the city that would employ you as a partner. They might employ you as a ghostwriter and a researcher, but you would not be a member of the firm” (Chester 1985, 76). Overt discrimination meant that women who considered joining a law firm or opening up their own practices faced many problems; they were excluded from the kinds of networks that might bring in high-paying customers and from activities, such as appearing in court, that aided career paths in the law (Epstein 1993, 103). When they did open their own practices or join firms, they largely ended up in lower-paying areas of matrimonial law, real estate and estate law (Epstein 1993, 102).

As a result of these obstacles, women lawyers opted for government employment more often than men. An analysis of the employment sector for lawyers and judges from 1950 to 1990 helps convey the consequences of private-sector discrimination. Table 9.2 shows that women lawyers and

Table 9.2. Type of Employment for Male and Female Lawyers and Judges, 1950–1970 in percentages

Year

Sex

Private Firms

Government

Self-Employed

1950

Men

24.9

14.2

61.0

Women

31.0

27.7

41.1

1960

Men

20.6

14.3

65.0

Women

31.2

28.1

40.0

1970

Men

27.5

18.3

54.1

Women

30.0

36.7

32.8

1980

Men

38.8

18.8

42.4

Women

51.1

33.7

14.9

1990

Men

37.9

17.3

44.7

Women

55.1

26.0

18.5

Source: 1950–1970: Epstein (1993): 97. 1980: U.S. Bureau of the Census. Census of the Population: Characteristics of the Population: Vol. 1–50 [50 State publications], Table 220. 1990: Ruggles et al. (2004) SPSS code and output available upon request.

(p.231) judges were twice as likely to work in government as their male counter-parts from 1950 to 1980, with women disproportionately taking advantage of the growth of government legal jobs during that period. The proportions in Table 9.2 translate into roughly 1,700 women lawyers in government in the 1950s and over 4,800 women lawyers employed in government bureaucracies in 1970. Indeed, by 1970 government was the primary employer of women lawyers—more than either private firms or individual law practices. Starting in 1980, women lawyers began to move away from employment in government, moving increasingly into private firms instead. Yet, even as late as 1990, women lawyers were still more likely than their male counterparts to enter government as opposed to private practice or other law firms.

African-Americans in the Legal Profession

Discrimination had a very different effect on African American lawyers than it did on women.5 Because the legal system was so imbued with racial discrimination, the law was one of the last professions that blacks sought (Smith 1993, 4). Excluded from most white law schools, the number of black law students even declined starting in the early 1920s, as changes in credentialing by the American Bar Association (such as requiring some college experience from incoming students) hurt many black law schools (Smith 1993, 43). Moreover, the color bar in the American Bar Association fell only in 1944, long after white women had already been admitted. Careers in the law were even more limited for African Americans; many ended up leaving the profession because it was impossible to practice law in any form. When they did remain in the law, African American lawyers were largely confined to criminal law because even other blacks were more likely to turn to “white lawyers in the more lucrative civil cases” (Smith 1993, 4).

Moreover, racial discrimination kept black lawyers largely out of the federal government, even as sex discrimination propelled women lawyers into government. In 1942, for example “the number of black lawyers in the federal government could be counted on two hands” (Smith 1993, 548). Although black lawyers in the D.C. area often went into the federal government, discrimination was so strong that they often ended up in non-legal or even menial government jobs (King 1995). For example, a National Bar Association study found that there were 225 black lawyers in Washington, D.C.—half of which “worked at government jobs during the day and practiced law in the evening” (Smith 1993, 565).

Thus, patterns of sex discrimination created a pool of highly educated (overwhelmingly white) women lawyers in the federal government. A network of these women, along with other feminists in government, would play a large role in the women's movement. But discrimination did not have the (p.232) same effect on the civil rights movement. While black lawyers were also important to this movement, those lawyers largely remained outside of the federal government, creating quite a different relationship between the activist legal community and the state.

Women in the Federal Bureaucracy

If education and employment patterns, especially in the professions, influenced women's entry into the federal government, changes in the nature of the federal government also helped to speed the movement of women into civil service positions. Part of the integration of women into the civil service arose from the needs of the state, particularly a constant need for cheap labor but also a need for civil servants that waxed and waned with wars and economic cycles. Civil service reform and government reorganization also encouraged women's incorporation into the federal bureaucracy. Thus, despite continued discrimination and limits on women's occupational life, the federal government had a long history of employing women, allowing a network of professional women to thrive within the ranks of the state, before the advent of the second wave women's movement in the 1960s.

Women had been in government service since the founding of the federal government, although largely in lower-paying jobs (Morgan 1913). Indeed, the first attempted uniform pay scale in 1853 included a separate class for women (McMillin 1941). In these early years, women entered the federal government as low-paid wage workers (such as money counters in the Department of Treasury) or through the patronage system (Aron 1987; Claussen 1996; McMillin 1941). An 1870 law allowed women to be appointed to clerkships, and because women received less compensation than male clerks, department heads attempted to increase productivity by replacing male clerks with lower-paid women. The result was that by 1880 women accounted for 29 percent of those employed in executive departments in Washington, D.C. (Claussen 1996, 236).

When the U.S. Civil Service Commission and a competitive examination system were created in 1883, women were technically allowed to compete for the same positions as men (Morgan 1913). However, the Civil Service Commission interpreted the new law as allowing agency heads to “specify the preferred sex of a worker,” which resulted in women largely receiving the lower-paying jobs (Harrison 1988, 142).6 Moreover, civil service examinations could be limited to men if the agency whose vacancy prompted the examination asked for male applicants. Since agencies seeking to hire the same category of worker later were required to draw from the same examination for their pool of eligible workers, this policy greatly limited women's (p.233) government employment (McMillin 1941, 18–9). A 1919 Women's Bureau report showed that this process excluded women from 60 percent of all examinations, leaving them largely confined to the clerical, teaching, nursing, and office service areas (Nienburg 1920, 11). Pressure resulting from this report forced the Civil Service Commission to allow women to attend all examinations, although agencies could still request candidates of a particular sex (Harrison 1988, 143; see also Aron 1987). With a brief exception between 1932 and 1934, agencies continued to be able to request only men for their positions until 1962, when President John F. Kennedy implemented new regulations prohibiting this practice (Harrison 1988, 143–5).

Until 1920, departments were also authorized to pay women considerably less than men (Claussen 1996, 238). The Classification Act of 1923, which instituted pay grades for government workers, altered these inequalities by requiring that men and women employees in the same positions be given equal compensation. A 1925 survey of women in the Federal Service conducted by the Women's Bureau, found that this law did help equalize the pay imbalance for women, compared to men in the same grade, although women continued to be concentrated in lower end jobs (McMillin 1941, 21).

Women's representation in the federal government also waxed and waned with the supply of male labor and the shifting demands of the state. Not surprisingly, war provided major opportunities for women to enter the federal government by simultaneously creating a shortfall in male labor and increasing the responsibilities of the state. While war was the major period of increased demand for women in the federal government, it was not the only one. State expansion during the New Deal also increased the number of women in the federal government (Ware 1981). Ware (1981, 61) argues that women's entry in this case was helped by the creation of new agencies in the bureaucracy, since these had “less prejudice against using female talent.”

On the other hand, economic downturns and returning veterans reduced opportunities for women in the federal government. During hard times, women's employment was often reduced by prohibitions against employing a number of people from the same family. In the 1870s, many departments forbade hiring “more than one family member” (Claussen 1996, 234), and the 1932 National Economy Act, adopted after the 1929 economic collapse, included Section 213, prohibiting both husband and wife from being employed by the federal government. While these laws did not explicitly exclude women, women largely suffered its consequences. About 75 percent of dismissals because of Section 213 were women (McMillin 1941, 30); and Ware (1981, 79) estimates that approximately 1,600 female government employees were dismissed between 1932 and the repeal of Section 213 in 1937.

The onset of peace also resulted in sharp reductions in women entering the federal government. This was particularly true after World War I and (p.234) World War II. The Veterans' Preference Act of 1944 reduced the number of women entering the federal government, since women were largely excluded from the armed forces during the war. Between 1945 and 1949, the percentage of federal employees receiving preference in employment because they were a veteran shot up from 16 percent to 47 percent (Ingraham 1995, 49). Women's absence from the military reduced their ability to get hired and to advance up the career ladder—an obstacle African Americans also faced.

Even with the large variation caused by war and depression, the proportion of women employed in the federal government grew steadily. For example, from 1930 to 1939—a period that encompasses the passage and then repeal of the National Recovery Act—the percentage of federal government employees who were women grew from 14.6 to 18.8 percent (see Table 9.3). Moreover, women were an even larger part of the federal workforce within the nation's capital. As early as 1923, women constituted fully 40 percent of federal employees within the district of Columbia, and that number rose as women became concentrated in the secretarial positions that kept the state working (Claussen 1996, 242). Once in the federal government, most women were then protected by civil service rules about hiring and firing, allowing them long careers in the bureaucracy. Catherine East, working in the Civil Service Commission at the end of World War II noted for example:

After the war, there were a lot of agencies that wanted to fire the women wholesale…[T]here was a memorandum that went out from the Civil Service Commission saying that although the law was that you could hire by sex, there was nothing in the law that said you could fire by sex…the agency heads were advised to separate employees in an orderly fashion, but reminded…once they started to hire, they could then hire only men if they wanted to. (East 1982, 56)

Overall, women were more likely to be employed by the private sector than by the federal government as a comparison in Table 9.3 of the percentage of women in the total workforce to the percentage of women in the federal government shows. However, many of those private-sector jobs were low-level manufacturing jobs, and the lack of women in the federal government reflected a lack of opportunities in the federal bureaucracy outside of Washington, D.C. The federal government in Washington, D.C., was a relative haven for women seeking full-time employment.

Race and Federal Employment

In comparison women constituted a much larger percentage of the civil service than blacks, and they were located in mid-level and even some lower-level administrative positions. As King (1995) documents, blacks were largely (p.235)

Table 9.3. Women's Employment in the Federal Government

Year

% of Employed in General Population who are womena

% of Federal Government employees who are women

% Washington DC Government employees who are women

1870

13.1

16.4b

1880

14.7

22.5b

1890

17.4

1893

32.6b

1900

18.8

1903

26.6b

1920

21.0

1923

14.9e

41.4e

1930

22.0

14.6e

41.1e

1939

18.8e

40.0e

1940

25.4

1941

19.6d

42.3d

1966

40.3

26c

41c

1997

42.8

(a) All of the numbers in this column come from U.S. Bureau of the Census. Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970; Series D11–25 (p. 127–8).

(b) Calculated from Aron 1987: 5

(c) Statistical Abstract of the United States 1967 Table No. 570 (p. 407)

(d) Calculated from McMillin 1943: 6–7

(e) Nyswander and Hooks 1941: 8–9

relegated to custodial or labor positions within the federal government, particularly after the election of Woodrow Wilson. Discrimination against blacks in the hiring process was aided by the inclusion of photographs on job applications between 1913 and 1940 (King 1995, 48–9). Washington, D.C.'s location in the South meant that much of the capital's white population supported segregationist policies. Highly trained African Americans often ended up taking jobs as menial laborers or were given the more menial tasks within a civil service grade, which in turn made it difficult to be promoted.7 For example, when the Department of Commerce hired an African American messenger in 1937 he had both a BA and a law degree (King 1995, 72).

While comparable statistics between African-Americans and women in the federal government are impossible to find, two separate studies both conducted in 1938 provide a fairly clear picture of the employment differences. L. J. W. Hayes, studying African Americans in the District of Columbia employed by the federal government found that 90 percent were employed (p.236) in custodial positions (Davis and Golightly 1945, 340; see also King 1999, 349); in contrast, Nyswander and Hooks (1941, 52) examining all women within the federal service within the same year found that only 3,200 out of the more than 145,500 women employed in the federal government (slightly more than 2%) worked as “janitors, charmen and charwomen.” Moreover, Nyswander and Hooks note that only 1.3 percent of all men—not distinguished by race—held these custodial positions. At the upper levels, Hayes found only .5 percent of African Americans in federal employment in the District could be classified as sub-professional (Davis and Golightly 1945, 340; see also King 1999, 349)8 while the Nyswander and Hooks data show that nationwide 7.9 percent of women (and 6.9% of all men) fall into that category. Together, these two studies indicate that African Americans in the 1930s were concentrated in unskilled government occupations, while women were concentrated at secretarial and clerical levels and could even be found in higher administrative positions.9

Thus, by the 1930s women were an accepted part of the federal work-place even as they were held back from the highest positions, but for African Americans integration into the federal workplace came much later, long after the end of World War II (King 1995). The consequences for the movement-state intersection are important, though. When civil rights organizations mobilized in the 1940s around the war and in the 1950s, the few black activists they had within the state were largely political appointees—beholden to the president who had appointed them for their continued presence within the state. The civil rights movement lacked a network of middle-level policy makers within the federal bureaucracy who could serve the cause. The women's movement, however, had activists, spread throughout government: a few as political appointees, a few in Congress, and a few in the upper levels of the civil service. The existence of this network and the ties among congressional women, bureaucratic women, and the political appointees were an important part of the mobilization of the movement.

Feminist Organizations Between the First and Second Waves

The existence of a network of feminist activists within government at the rise of the second wave of mobilization also resulted from the continued activism for feminist causes between 1920 and 1960. Although women's organizations split over whether to pursue protective legislation for women or an Equal Rights Amendment (Banaszak 1996; Ryan 1992; Ware 1981) and the Red scares of the 1920s linked many of these organizations to Communist organizations (Banaszak 1996; Talbot and Rosenberry 1931), a robust network of (p.237) women's organizations and activism continued throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s (Anderson 1996; Mathews-Gardner 2005).

This wide range of women's organizations included women's rights organizations, professional organizations, and a number of other women's organizations. The National American Woman Suffrage Association reformed itself as the League of Women Voters in 1920, focusing on supporting women candidates and encouraging women voters to serve as a force for progress (Young 1989). The National Woman's Party focused its energies on an Equal Rights Amendment but also encouraged women into elective office (Rupp and Taylor 1987). Additional women's organizations that fought for women's interests after 1910 included the General Federation of Women's Clubs (Wells 1953); the National Association of Colored Women (White 1999); the Women's Christian Temperance Union; the Women's Trade Union League, the National Association of Women Lawyers (Smith 1999); and the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (later the American Association of University Women),10 to name but a few. In addition, in the period after suffrage, a number of women's professional organizations appeared as well, including the National Business and Professional Women (1919), Financial Women International (1921), the National Federation of Press Women (1937), and the American College of Nurse-Midwives in 1955 (Barakso 2005, Appendix B).

These organizations enjoyed a very healthy membership; for example, in 1969 the League of Women Voters (LWV) had over 156, 000 members, while the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs (BPW) more than doubled its membership from 79,332 in 1944 to 175,274 in 1960 (Rawalt 1969, 341).11 The National Association of Colored Women's Clubs attracted high numbers of African-American women—more than 1 percent of the entire black female population according to Mathews-Gardner (2005, 551).

Particularly important for the building of a feminist network within government was the fact that many of these organizations were concentrated in the Washington, D.C., area. Two organizations illustrate this point: the Business and Professional Women's club and the National Women's Party. Between 1941 and 1949—when a decision was made to create sister organizations and a state federation—the D.C. club of the BPW was the largest local club in an already large and active national association in the country (Rawalt 1969, 285). Moreover, the D.C. group played a large role in the national BPW, since from 1946 an office focusing on lobbying was located in D.C., and national headquarters were moved there in 1956. Of the eighteen presidents of the BPW who served from 1919 to 1960, three worked for the federal government, one for state government, and one served as a judge, providing leadership that understood the workings of government bureaucracy.

(p.238) Similarly, the National Women's Party (NWP) was small but played an important role among Washington's feminists. Although the NWP had only 627 active members in 1947, and only 200 in 1952, members were concentrated in Washington, D.C., and “most of the activity took place in Washington” (Rupp and Taylor 1987, 26). As one member observed, “we had women in every department in Washington” (Rupp and Taylor 1987, 40). These activists recruited other women they met in government into the organization, facilitating an enduring network of feminist women in the federal government around the feminist agenda.

Women's organizations pursued a wide agenda between 1920 and 1966 including a number of feminist issues (Anderson 1996; Mathews-Gardner 2003, 2005; Skocpol 1992). I focus here on two limited aspects of their agenda because these issues helped to create opportunities for feminist activists to enter the federal bureaucracy: the pursuit of civil service reform and the increased representation of women in government. Despite other divisions, women's organizations were unified on the issue of increasing women's representation in the federal bureaucracy.12 Even those organizations whose primary purpose was charitable works or serving religious communities occasionally engaged themselves on these issues. Nearly all of the women's organizations engaged in attempts to increase women's representation in government, either individually or in umbrella organizations like the Committee on the Participation of Women in Postwar Planning. At the fore-front of this battle was the BPW, which continually pushed “the election and appointment of qualified women to city, state and national office” (Bowman and White 1944, 88; see also Rawalt 1969, 26).

Women's organizations focused extensively on increasing women's representation in appointed office. The National Association of Women Lawyers devoted considerable attention to getting women into judgeships13 (Smith 1999). The General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC) pushed for women's inclusion in the diplomatic service and the U.S. delegation to the United Nations (Wells 1953, 221). From the 1920s to the 1960s, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) nominated qualified women to public service commissions and boards (Talbot and Rosenberry 1931; Levine 1995); its D.C. branch, dominated by a large number of government employees, focused extensively on the situation of female federal employees (Talbot and Rosenberry 1931, 207–10).

In addition to focusing on women's representation, women's organizations turned their attention to discrimination within the federal bureaucracy between 1920 and the 1960s. Because the federal government was a major employer of women, especially in the capital, civil service reform was important to the women's organizations that represented professional women like the AAUW and BPW. Even at its first convention in 1919, the (p.239) BPW passed a resolution demanding that all civil service examinations be open to women and calling for the collection of statistics on women in government service (Bowman and White 1944, 21). Advocacy of civil service reform by the League of Women Voters, the Women's Trade Union League, the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the GFWC (among others) in the early 1900s contributed to the adoption of the Classification Act of 1923 (Claussen 1996, 241).

The adoption of Section 213 of the Economy Act of 1932 stimulated substantial activism among women's organizations. Beyond its direct impact, Section 213 also inspired the passage of similar laws in the states where schoolteachers were then forced to resign (Claussen 1996: 245; Rung 2002, 64–6). Women's organizations, including the LWV, NWP, WTUL, the Women's Joint Congressional Committee, and NAWL, fought hard to have Section 213 removed from the Economy Act. In 1935, Geline Bowman, the president of BPW, met with President Roosevelt to argue the injustice of Section 213; “she had also asked frankly for Presidential support to bring about the amendment of the Civil Service Act so as to render discriminations against women impossible” (Bowman and White 1944, 68). Although it took until 1937, Section 213 was eventually repealed.

The BPW took a particularly tough stand on the treatment of women within the civil service. In addition to supporting changes in merit reform that would make the civil service less biased against women, the BPW opposed the “attempt to drive women out of the upper bracket jobs in government” after World War II (Independent Women cited in Rawalt 1969, 23). For example, Margaret Hickey, president of the BPW in 1946, argued that “there are grade cuts, demotions, firings, all to reduce women from the technical, professional and administrative classifications in Civil Service. In the matter of new appointments, most jobs paying more than $2400 are tagged ‘Men Only’ although Civil Service policy claims to be nondiscriminatory.” (Rawalt 1969, 23).

Thus, the activism of women's groups facilitated the entrée of feminist activists into the bureaucracy during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, well before the rise of the second wave, and especially in the nation's capital. Many of the women in the federal bureaucracy were members of one or more of these organizations, and they would come to play an important role in creating the network of professional women who were interested in pursuing feminist policies in the early 1960s.

Race and Feminist Networks in the “Doldrums”

However, the network created by these women's organizations in the 1930s through the 1950s was one that excluded almost all African American (p.240) women. Thus the racialized structure of the American state's employment patterns were unwittingly reproduced and maintained in feminist women's organizations.

Most women's groups were slow to integrate black women into their networks, and many explicitly excluded black women, particularly in the DC area where segregated race relations were entrenched. Rupp (1985, 719) notes that Mary Church Terrell was the only black member of the National Woman's Party that she could identify. Although it allowed national membership for black women, the AAUW permitted local branches to choose whether to accept black women into their ranks. This policy remained until the end of World War II14 when Mary Church Terrell's application for branch membership moved the organization to a national policy of non-discrimination.15 While the YWCA also integrated black women into its ranks in the post–World War II years, the National Federation of Business and Professional Women, the League of Women Voters, and the General Federation of Women's Clubs were slower to do so (Levine 1995, 107; Wells 1953, 362–8). The few networks that existed between white and black women were tenuous at best, and even when African American women were included in white women's organizations, racial discrimination limited the strength of the ties between individuals (White 1999).

Black women developed their own network through a number of organizations: black sororities like Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta (both founded before 1920), women's church organizations, and organizations like the National Association of Colored Women and the National Council of Negro Women. Both of the latter organizations fought for the cause of African American women during the period of the doldrums. The National Council of Negro Women, for example, engaged in lobbying during this period on a wide range of policies designed to increase black women's employment, such as the inclusion of blacks in New Deal programs and the elimination of photographs from civil service job applications (White 1999, 150). They also organized local grassroots self-help actions designed to aid the African American community, particularly black women and children (White 1999, 52).

Despite their activism, many of these organizations remained largely unnoticed in (white) national politics (White 1999, 173–4). Moreover, the Depression reduced opportunities for blacks in general as high unemployment in the white population created dire conditions among African Americans, and New Deal policies discriminated heavily against blacks. Even as political opportunities began to open slightly for black men on the national level in the 1940s, black women's organizations did not gain greater governmental access. For example, after Hoover, presidents began to react to the call for equality from the black community by increasingly appointing black advisors, most of whom were men. Only one black woman was appointed in FDR's (p.241) administration—Mary McLeod Bethune as Director of African American affairs in the National Youth Administration (Smith 1999, 148).

Thus, while women's organizations were active on both sides of the racial divide during the 1920s to 1960s, the networks created were heavily divided by race, and when the state responded to women's demands, they were largely the demands posed by middle-class white women. Although women's networks, particularly in Washington, D.C., slowly began to integrate after World War II, the networks of feminist activists inside the state were still largely white and middle-class in the 1960s (Jones 1982). The networks of these feminist activists in government were strengthened by connections forged in women's organizations outside of government so that insider feminists knew not only each other but also other women who supported and fought for women's rights.

The Effects of Feminist Networks Inside the State

While the effects of feminist activists inside the state are too numerous to chronicle completely in this chapter, I provide two brief examples here: equal pay and educational equity. In both cases, feminist activists within the state acted against the prevailing governmental interests to engage feminist policy, although in neither case did their actions run counter to those of the state. In both cases, action by feminist activists within the federal bureaucracy had observable influences on state policy that altered the larger societal structure, illustrating the significance of the American state as a force in U.S. society.

Sex Discrimination Policy

Two government changes activated existing networks of feminist activists in government around the issue of sex discrimination. First, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged with the task of enforcing the Title VII of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 came into being in July 1965. Although the sex clause of Title VII had been actively pursued by feminists, the EEOC's initial actions and public statements by government officials showed that most commissioners had very little interest in enforcing this clause. For example, in August 1965 the EEOC voted 3–2 that employers could place sex-segregated job advertisements in newspapers (Harrison 1988, 188). Second, President Kennedy's Presidential Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), which had reviewed women's status and made recommendations on how to increase women's equality, had multiple effects on feminist activity. Not only had the PCSW encouraged the creation of (p.242) state-level commissions, but when the PCSW disbanded in 1963, one of the two new committees created in its wake—the Citizen's Advisory Committee on the Status of Women—continued through 1969 to monitor activities in the state and support conferences of the state commissions on the status of women (Duerst-Lahti 1989, 262–7; Harrison 1988, 184–5).

Continued inaction on the numerous cases of sex discrimination filed at the EEOC and rumors that Richard Graham, one of the strongest supporters of the sex clause, was not going to be reappointed by President Johnson galvanized feminist activists in government into action. Initially, insider feminists who knew what was going on tried to organize existing women's organizations but nothing happened. As one activist noted:

We wrote up a one page flyer and used [Marguerite] Rawalt's connections to women's clubs to try and get the organizations to adopt resolutions asking them [the EEOC] to enforce this law, especially concerning sex-segregated advertisement. From [Catherine] East's basement…we sent several hundred envelopes out but nothing happened because the women's organizations took too long to function. (Interview with activist, March 22, 2002)

After realizing that existing women's organizations were not going to take up the battle, feminist activists within government then turned their attention to the creation of a new organization to pursue women's equality. Two key insiders—Catherine East, the executive secretary for the Citizen's Advisory Committee on the Status of Women and Mary Eastwood, a lawyer from the Department of Justice—met multiple times with Betty Friedan to encourage her to form a new organization, provided her with a list of potential supporters, and invited her to the Third Annual Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women sponsored by the Women's Bureau (East 1982; Harrison 1988, 193). Although Mary Keyserling, director of the Women’ Bureau under President Johnson, was not a strong feminist and did not approve of including Friedan at the conference, she eventually allowed her to attend (East 1982, 173–4). Prior to the meeting, Catherine East distributed copies of Martha Griffith's speech lambasting the EEOC to attendees as part of the materials delivered by the Women's Bureau (Harrison 1988, 191). From these events came the creation of the National Organization for Women, and its first act was to protest the inaction of the EEOC.

Feminist activists within government also attempted to change state policy directly by utilizing their networks to assure that landmark sexual discrimination cases were brought before the courts. This was important because the EEOC had little power prior to 1972; it could at best file amicus curiae briefs when individuals sued privately or, if the case constituted a “pattern or practice” case, the EEOC could refer it to the U.S. Department of Justice, which could take it up at its own discretion (Equal Employment Opportunity (p.243) Commission 2000). These rules rendered implementation of the sex clause of Title VII very dependent on private litigants' pursuit of their own complaints (Lieberman 2006). Feminist activists inside the state recognized the necessity of encouraging private litigants to pursue their cases in court and developed a network of lawyers to work on them. The network began within the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission where Sonia Pressman Fuentes would forward cases to a network of feminist lawyers, many of whom worked in the federal bureaucracy:

I passed on to this network information on women's rights cases that were developing at the EEOC, which the members of this network would then pass on to Marguerite Rawalt. (Pressman Fuentes 1999, 134; see also East 1982, 121–2)

Their employment within the state meant feminist activists inside the federal government were unable to undertake such high-profile cases as the lawyer of record, and as a result their participation occurred mostly under the table.16 Caruthers Berger, one of this group, even asked for a ruling from the Solicitor of Labor on whether she could sign a brief as a charitable donation but was told that was impossible (Berger 1982, 48). Despite their inability to take credit for their work, several feminist activists inside the state were critical to the development of the legal strategies, briefs, and motions that constituted several landmark cases. Often times, they would work late at night researching and writing the briefs and preparing arguments that would be submitted in court. Compared to many cause lawyers, these activists conducted this legal work after hours of their jobs within the federal bureaucracy. Marguerite Rawalt's biographer notes the amount of time that just one case took for this group:

For months. … Marguerite, Phineas, Caruthers, and Mary worked on the Mengelkoch brief, trying to prove that the state laws of California denied women opportunities to which they were entitled under the Fourteenth Amendment. … The work was slow and tedious and the weight of their inexperience heavy. They were in new territory. No one else had experience either. (Paterson 1986, 175)

Caruthers Berger notes that even after months of work, the final production of the brief often meant very long hours: “The day I produced this [Mengelkoch] brief, I worked around the clock to get it done because I had to do it on a weekend. I think I spent about 28 hours straight and then I turned it over to Marguerite” (Berger 1982, 49).

The cases pursued by these feminist activists within government became among the most important precedents in equal employment law (Hernandez 1975). These included two cases against state protective legislation (Mengelkoch v. Industrial Welfare Commission and Rosenfeld v. South Pacific), as well as (p.244) against prominent companies' and trade unions' discriminatory practices (Bowe v. Colgate Palmolive and Weeks v. Southern Bell). Several of these early cases—especially Weeks v. Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph and Bowe vs. Colgate-Palmolive Co.—are still cited in discussions of equal opportunity law (see, for example, Sedmak and Vidas 1994). Weeks v. Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph was particularly significant because it was one of the first cases to invalidate a state's existing protective legislation for women (The Association of the Bar of the City of New York 2007)17 and was the first case in which the court held that Title VII applied to women (Tully 1973).

Educational Equity and Title IX

Title IX was largely the work of Representative Edith Green (D-OR) who had long been aware of issues of sexual discrimination in education and, as chair of a subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee, was uniquely situated to introduce new policies. Feminist activists within the state had been urging Green to hold hearings on educational equity, especially Congressional staffer Phineas Indritz, a founding member of National Organization for Women and part of the network of feminist lawyers working on employment equity. In 1970 she convened the hearings on a new piece of legislation that she had drafted on educational equity (Sandler 1997, 4).

The Nixon administration sent a representative from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (DHEW) to testify in opposition to the bill. Yet, the text of the administration's statement helped to develop support for the passage of the bill. How this happened illustrates the influence that activists within the state can have. The testimony had been written by a feminist activist in DHEW who had been trying to convince the administration to support Green's bill. As she recalls it:

I wrote a fairly strong draft, detailing all of the instances of sex discrimination in education that I could find, with all the statistics I could find, and concluded that the administration supported the bill. It was very strong testimony. … The last part of this process was a meeting at the White House with representatives of…other departments that were considered to be stakeholders. … I argued that the administration should support the bill and the decision of the meeting was that the administration would oppose it. … All I did was change the last couple of paragraphs. And that's all I was required to do. So I left all the statistics and what a general problem this was, and how unequal this was…I was required to cut out the last paragraph and two, and instead of saying “and therefore we support the bill,” say “however, we do not believe it's necessary—this legislation is necessary—at the time.” (Interview with activist, May 25, 2004)

Activists in the education area noted that the result of the testimony was to encourage support for the legislation and to give Representative Green's (p.245) argument about the need for such legislation stronger credence (Interview with activist, October 16, 2003; Millsap 1988, 21–22). As Millsap (1988, 22) notes, the reaction to the DHEW testimony was immediate:

In questioning the officials, Representative Green pointed out the discrepancy between the “effective and eloquent testimony”…and HEW opposition to the bill, and expressed doubt whether existing law or executive orders were sufficient.

While Green's legislation did not pass that year, the testimony from the hearings were widely distributed and two decades later were considered “an excellent source of information about the status of women's education” (Stetson 1991, 108). The Green bill was incorporated into a reform of the Civil Rights bill two years later largely under the radar of educational specialists; the major controversy in congressional debate around that bill involved the issue of court-ordered busing for racial integration (Stetson 1991, 109). Moreover, Representative Green urged feminists not to lobby or call attention to Title IX and was content that debate focused on other aspects of the bill. The bill also closed loopholes in the Equal Pay act—a feat accomplished by another feminist activist in government—Morag Simchak—who attached a technical rider to Title IX. Labor officials did not notice that the bill affected the Equal Pay Act and so the technical rider entered into law without controversy or comment.

If passage of Title IX attracted little attention, an intense battle began as the initial regulations implementing the bill were written. The controversy around initial regulations was so intense that it took from 1972 to 1975 (spanning the Nixon and Ford administrations) to publish initial regulations (Stetson 1991, 109). Feminist activists within government, including B. Ann Kleindienst, worked to assure that the women's movement was included in the public comment process (Millsap 1988 32–3; interview with activist, May 25, 2004).18 According to Millsap (1988, 35) the result was that 10,000 comments were provided on the draft regulation, whereas most regulations elicited less than 1,000.

Feminist insiders also influenced the final regulations about the complaint process under Title IX. After the public comment period, the HEW transmitted final recommendations to the president that included newly added wording to place stronger limitations on when individuals could register complaints under Title IX:

they put in a clause, kind of at the last minute, that would have said, that before you could file a complaint you had to go through an internal grievance process in…your…college. … So again, this was the inside stuff we found out. I was best buddies with…[name withheld] by this time she was inside, I was outside…so we found out about this…draft regulation with this horrible clause, we thought was just absolutely a disaster because then there would (p.246) be no enforcement, and people who wanted redress would cool their heels for years with some internal grievance process…So we finally got this meeting with an aide to the President and we jumped up and down and said how horrible this whole, this exhausting internal remedy thing was, and it had to come out, and they did take it out…If we hadn't had people who had been inside…we wouldn't have known about it until it went on the Hill and then it would have been too late. (Interview with feminist activist, May 25, 2004)

In the end, the final regulations did not include the requirement that individuals complete internal grievance procedures but allowed complaints to go through the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education, which could then threaten to cut federal financial aid, or permit individuals to sue as well (Millsap 1988; Stetson 1991).

These recommendations that feminists organized to fight were not public, and as Millsap (1988, 37–8) notes, feminists had no access to the White House or Cabinet officials who could have provided information on the new regulation or supported feminist positions. Yet, by providing information about the regulations and encouraging women's organizations to mobilize, feminist activists within the state were able to alter the final outcome. In the end, feminist activists within the government bureaucracy played an essential role in assuring that Title IX passed and was implemented in a way that ensured some enforcement protection. While there are many ways in which Title IX has been weakened (in excluding many types of extracurricular organizations and some types of sports), feminist activists inside the state assured the existence of educational equity policy during both the adoption and the implementation stages.

These two examples illustrate how feminist activists inside the state affected policy change that had some equalizing effects on American society. While in neither case can the policies be said to have created equality in the workplace, educational institutions, or sports arenas, there have been fundamental shifts in the position of women that resulted from these policies. Moreover, the specific examples above are just two from a wider array of examples that occurred throughout the U.S. federal bureaucracy. Significant changes also occurred in the areas of women's health, foreign policy, and law enforcement. Nonetheless, the examples also show the limits of feminist activists within the state. The policies above benefited middle-class women most of all, and fit well with existing conceptions of the state and society—representing liberal conceptions of society and ignoring more radical critiques that existed in the feminist movement.

Conclusion: Feminist Networks within the American State

As the women's movement began its upward trajectory in the early 1960s, women in the federal government were already poised to play an important (p.247) role. Their position in the bureaucracy resulted from general changes in employment and education but also from the specific gender characteristics of the American state. Their sensitivity to women's social and political inequality grew out of the continued activism of women's organizations since the 1920s, which carried the feminist agenda through a period of little receptivity and helped to assure the openness of the federal bureaucracy to some women at the mid- and upper-levels of the civil service.

Here comparisons to African Americans in the federal government are telling. African Americans were confined to the lower levels of the civil service, regardless of their level of education or experience. While women also faced discrimination, there were always a few women who broke the barrier into mid- and upper-level civil service positions. While the federal government was more welcoming for women lawyers than private practice, African American lawyers found no openings in the policy-making ranks of the federal bureaucracy. Although lawyers would play an important role in the burgeoning civil rights movement, these lawyers remained outside the state. On the other hand, feminist lawyers were located both inside and outside the state, and at times their position within the federal government provided important information and access to plaintiffs for landmark cases. While the civil rights movement developed outside the state, as we traditionally expect of social movements, the existence of a part of the women's movement inside the state—although only a small part of the movement—helped to mobilize the movement, and changed policies that altered the gender order of American society.

The implications for an analysis and understanding of the American state are significant. First, the effects of these insider feminist activists suggest other interests besides class interests can affect the activities of the state. Just as Miliband (1969, 51) noted that the highly educated middle- and upper-class professionals who administer the state “cannot divest themselves of all ideological clothing in the advice which they tender to their political masters,” so too it is important to recognize that those professionals carry gender, racial, and sexual preference biases that color their governance as well. As such it is not surprising that the interjection of feminist activists into the policy-making levels of the bureaucracy changes state policy in perceptible ways. In short, movement-state intersections do affect the state.

However, those changes are highly constrained. Above all else, the feminist activists who entered the federal government were still highly educated middle- and upper-class professionals. As a result the effects on state policy were largely in forms that benefited middle-class women above other groups of women continuing the pattern of inequality associated with the American state. Certainly not all of the feminist activists I studied fit this pattern completely. There were a handful of examples of feminists active within the state who strongly critiqued the inequality perpetrated by the state or who tried to engage the state in ways that would ameliorate inequality (e.g., by focusing (p.248) on women in poverty), but in those cases it was also much more difficult to discern lasting effects on state policy.

Finally, examining the effect of this movement-state intersection on the American state itself is pertinent. The policy changes effected by feminist activists inside the federal bureaucracy did not in any way challenge state interests. Indeed, in many ways it increased state capacity—as when it expanded the reach of the EEOC even further into the economic relations between employer and worker. Yet, by injecting a different viewpoint within the limiting realm of dominant class interests, it also planted the potential for conflict within the American state.

Notes

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Notes:

(1.) Social movements have traditionally been viewed as outsiders to the state by social movement scholars (Diani 1992; Birnbaum 1988; Burstein, Einwohner, and Hollander 1995; Flam 1994; Jenkins and Klandermans 1995; Tarrow 1998; Tilly 1978). If activists are acknowledged to be part of the state at all, they are assumed to enter after the initial mobilization of the movement and the entry is taken to be a sign of movement success (Gamson 1990; Burstein, Einwohner, and Hollander 1995; Piven and Cloward 1978; Reinelt 1995; Santoro 1999; Wolfson 2001). In contrast, I argue that movement-state intersections occur at any point in a movement's history.

(2.) Although, as McDonagh and Pappano (2007) suggest, Title IX did not completely eliminate gendered stereotypes in sports and even reinforced some essentialist notions of women.

(3.) These statistics hide huge disparities by race. African American women were always part of the paid labor force. Although labor force statistics were not collected by race prior to 1972, in that year African American women's labor force participation exceeded that of their white counterparts by over 10 percent. On the other hand, African American women did not receive the same benefits from the expansion of women's educational opportunities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In 1957 only 3 percent of black women over 25 years of age had completed four years of college, half that of white women.

(4.) Women at Howard (including black women) experienced the same hostile environment as elsewhere. For example, Pauli Murray noted that her cohort of women students at Howard was publicly ridiculed by a few of the professors (Smith 1993, 55).

(5.) Women lawyers, both inside and outside government, were overwhelmingly white; few African American women became lawyers. In 1940, for example, blacks constituted less than 1 percent of all women lawyers (Smith 1993, Appendix 2), although they constituted a higher proportion of black lawyers (3.7%) than the percentage of women among all lawyers (Smith 1993, 636, taken from the 1940 Census).

(6.) Agencies generally asked for male candidates only. Indeed, in 1902, when the Civil Service was unable to supply agencies with enough qualified male stenographers, it sent out a memorandum calling attention to the quality applicants on the female list (McMillin 1941, 15–16).

(7.) Moreover, looking only at grades and promotion does not give us much of a sense of the level of integration into the workplace on a social and cultural level. (p.249) Aron (1987, chapters 6–7) discusses how offices in the federal government changed to integrate women into their work spaces as early as the late 1800s. Despite problems in fully incorporating women, it is likely that even stronger interpersonal problems occurred for African Americans.

(8.) The remainder of African Americans(9.5%) were categorized as clerical, administrative, fiscal, or clerical-mechanical.

(9.) As with women, there were a higher percentage of African American civil servants in higher grade levels in the nation's capital compared to other federal bureaucracy locations, although the numbers were still quite miniscule (King 1995, 75).

(10.) The AAUW began life as the Association of Collegiate Alumnae. In 1903 a parallel organization was formed in the South—the Southern Association of College Women. In 1921 the two groups merged to form the American Association of University Women.

(11.) Membership in the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs exceeded that of the League of Women Voters throughout the postwar period (cf. Rawalt 1969, 341; and Young 1989, 3).

(12.) On the AAUW see Talbot and Rosenberry 1931; Levine 1995; on the National Association of Women Lawyers see Smith 1999; see also Rupp and Taylor 1987, 77–8.

(13.) They were also on the forefront of the fight to include women on juries.

(14.) Interestingly, the International Federation of University Women, which the AAUW had initially helped found, began pressuring the AAUW to eliminate its racial barriers during World War II, in part as a response to Germany's discriminatory policies (Levine 1995, 111).

(15.) Levine (1995 135) argued that the conflict over desegregation both within the AAUW but also in the larger society helped to push the AAUW away from taking issue positions and toward more research and “abstract study.”

(16.) One exception was Marguerite Rawalt, who retired from the Internal Revenue Service in 1965, just as many of these cases were beginning to be tried (Paterson 1986, 160). Because she had given up her government position she was able to appear as the attorney of record on a number of these cases.

(17.) Although it was not the first suit brought by this group in an attempt to invalidate state protection laws. The same group of feminist had also aided in the suit Mengelkoch v. North American Aviation Co., but this suit was dismissed on appeal. Rosenfeld v. Southern Pacific Company, which also invalidated restrictive state laws, came later. Many of the same feminist activists worked on this case as well.

(18.) Equally important for this issue was the existence of feminist activists within many of the traditional educational organizations like Association of American Colleges and Universities. These women were often able to bring the pressure of these larger organizations, although in all likelihood the membership of the organizations would not be strongly supportive of the positions these women took.