The 1919 I.L.O. Convention Concerning the Employment of Women Before and After Childbirth: U.S. Involvement and Ultimate Failure to Ratify
The paper tracks the forces working both for and against U.S. ratification of the Convention Concerning the Employment of Women Before and After Childbirth, which included a proposal to establish maternity insurance programs for working women. Despite the acute need for protection of working mothers and their babies, a lengthy list of factors combined to defeat ratification: rifts within the women's movement; the belief that family legislation fell outside Congress' domain; American isolationism; domestic conservatism; and social attitudes as to individualism, the proper place for women, and the proper sphere of government action. The paper focuses specifically on the need for maternity benefits, the events of the International Labor Organization (ILO) conference which approved the Convention, the contemporary debate over how best to protect female workers, and the ultimate failure of ratification.
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