Substantive Meaning Of The 14th Amendment

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During and after the Reconstruction Era, the US Supreme Court needed to interpret a substantive meaning of the 14th Amendment in a response to legal arguments brought by women and laborers. The US Supreme Court’s interpretation of the amendment’s Sec. 1 affected women’s legal rights in both positive and negative ways. The Sec. 1’s privileges and immunities clause undermined women’s legal rights in Bradwell vs. Illinois (1873) and Minor vs. Happersett (1875) by the US Supreme Court’s narrow interpretation and judges’ sexist attitude, but with progressive reformers’ efforts, the Sec. 1’s equal protection clause strengthened women’s legal rights in Muller vs. Oregon (1908). Muller went far to extend state protection over male laborers with Bunting …show more content…
1 to evolve into a law that solidified federal protection over women’s legal rights owing to progressive reformers. The reformers were determined to influence legislators pass state protective laws for communities in general to diminish risks of exploitation by large corporations. And when Curt Muller, a laundry owner violated the Oregon ten-hour law by making a female employee work overtime, the reformers saw it as an avenue to achieve their protective goals. The reformer Florence Kelley took the initiative and had Louis Brandeis represent the state of the Oregon. Brandeis succeeded in making the US Supreme Court realize the necessity of a state police power to protect women’s health and well-being for general welfare under the 14th amendment through his famous brief. Justice Brewer agreed with Brandeis brief that because women constitute a vulnerable class who carries future generation, their health is a public interest and he upheld the amendment’s equal protection clause. Thus, Muller was a monumental achievement in women’s legal realm and in that respect, laid the foundation of Bunting decision which concerned male laborers’ rights under the same

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