When Winifred Stanley of New York introduced H.R. 5056 in 1944, the United States was nearing the end of World War II. The war mobilized women into the workforce in unprecedented numbers. Stanley had the foresight to see how the return of men serving overseas and the reduction of work related to war production could affect women’s employment. Her bill amended the National Labor Relations Act to make wage discrimination illegal on the basis of the employee’s sex. Stanley’s remarks when introducing the bill were prescient: “It has often been remarked that this is a ‘man’s world.’ The war and its far-reaching effects have provided the answer. It’s ‘our world,’ and this battered old universe needs and will need the best brains and ability of both men and women.” The bill was referred to the Committee on Labor, where it languished.
Equal pay for equal work eventually became law when John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963. His remarks on signing the bill echoed Stanley’s from almost 20 years earlier: “Our economy today depends upon women in the labor force. One out of three workers is a woman. Today, there are almost 25 million women employed, and their number is rising faster than the number of men in the labor force.”