Muller v. Oregon

(1908)

In 1908, in Muller v. Oregon, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a state law that regulated the employment of women. The Court's decision in Muller v. Oregon gave rise to many questions about the progressive agenda and how its goals might best be achieved. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, political progressives pursued economic and political reforms. Many pushed hard to improve working conditions for men, women, and children laboring in shops and factories. The women's movement was pressing for the right to vote and the right to exercise autonomy in legal and economic affairs.

The case of Muller v. Oregon arose when the owner of a laundry in Portland, Oregon, violated a state law limiting the number of hours a woman could work in his shop. The man challenged the constitutionality of this protective legislation; the direction the Supreme Court was taking in cases of this sort at the time portended a victory for the laundry owner. However, the Court, presented with a mountain...

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Justice David Josiah Brewer wrote the unanimous opinion in Muller v. Oregon. (Library of Congress)

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