Delano Dunn: Dreams of Fire and Starshine
Part One: Jane Crow
Jane Crow is the first phase that one encounters when entering the Project for Empty Space gallery. It is a section that acknowledges not only an understanding of women’s rights today; but also, explores the history of how this foundation was built through the lens of the judicial system. Jane Crow laws are the female equivalent of Jim Crow laws: they restricted (and arguably in many ways still restrict) the movements and basic rights of American women, particularly American Women of Color. The pieces in this phase of Dreams of Fire and Starshine highlight the ways in which these laws were combatted by actors such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the ACLU, and Women’s Rights Project, and more.
Doe vs. Bolton
Case heard 1971
A pregnant woman who was given the pseudonym "Mary Doe" in court papers to protect her identity, was the plaintiff. Ms. Doe sued Arthur K. Bolton, the Attorney General of Georgia at the time, as the official responsible for enforcing the law in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The anonymous plaintiff has since been identified as Sandra Cano.
The Georgia law allowed for abortions only in cases of rape, severe fetal deformity, or the possibility of severe or fatal injury to the mother. Also, only Georgia residents could receive abortions under this statutory scheme: non-residents were not permitted abortion in Georgia under any circumstances.
It was the decision of the United States Supreme Court to overturning the abortion law of Georgia. The Supreme Court's decision was released on January 22, 1973, the same day as the decision in the better-known case of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S.113 (1973).
Kirchberg v. Feenstra
Case heard 1980
Joan Feenstra filed a criminal complaint against the molester of her minor daughter–the molester: her husband Harold Feenstra. Harold retained Karl Kirchberg to represent him. Mr. Feenstra signed a $3,000 promissory note and used his mortgage on their jointly owned home as a security. Joan was unaware of the mortgage placed on their home. She later dropped the charges towards her husband while he obtained a legal separation. She became aware of the mortgage when she began to receive foreclosure threats from Kirchberg unless she paid her husbands debt.
Kirchberg responded by obtaining an order of “executory process” towards eviction and re-sale of the property from the local sheriff under Louisiana statute 2404 which gave husbands executive right to dispose of jointly owned property as “head and master” without spousal consent.
The case clearly showed discrimination under the law as it was apparent that community property did not meet the case for “constitutional discrimination that furthers government interest.” violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The laws were changed in Louisiana as a result of the case after January 1, 1980 however, old cases with similar occurrences were not included in the judgement.
Craig v. Boren
Case heard 1976
After the end of prohibition many states passed laws regarding age minimums for the consumption of alcohol. Oklahoma law declared the ages for legal consumption of “non-intoxicating” beer (3.2% alcohol by volume) at 18 for women and 21 for men. Curtis Craig a young man and Carolyn Whitener, a licensed vendor) challenged the law as it discriminated against men 18-20 years of age. The law also hurt vendors as selling to alcohol to men between the ages of 18-20 placed an economic hurdle for vendors across the state.
The was found to be discriminatory as there was no clear study that there was a significant correlation between different drinking ages and the maintenance of traffic safety. Instead the court found the statute unconstitutionally engaged in gender discrimination.
Califano v. Westcott, 2018
Case heard 1979
The social security act became an important way for Americans who needed financial aid during old age, unemployment, physical handicaps, and for those who had dependents. Massachusetts developed its own state-run version of the program called Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Unemployed Father program (AFDC-UF.) Section 407 postulated that payments were only available to families affected by a father’s unemployment. Families where mothers were breadwinners saw themselves without the same financial cushion as families with a male head of household.
The Supreme Court sided with Westcott as §407 discriminated on the basis of gender and traditional gender roles. §407 was in clear violation of the fifth and fourteenth amendment. The commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare sought to terminate the program or to designate payments only to the “principal wage-earner”. The Supreme Court declined this modification and instead insisted on payments to go to families with needy children where either parent was unemployed.
Stanton v. Stanton
Case heard 1976
The case began in Utah state court. A divorced father stopped paying child support for his daughter when she turned eighteen. The daughter's mother went to court to ask for support until both the daughter and the son reached twenty-one. Utah divorce court ruled against the mother, and the Utah Supreme Court held that there was a "reasonable basis" for the differential: women matured earlier and married younger; men had a greater need for education. The Utah court stated in its opinion that the basis for the law, though an "old notion," was not unconstitutional.
It was decided that this was a violation of equal protection, and stated the law failed under any standard, including rational basis (the Supreme Court’s lowest standard of review). The Decision remained in the context of child support. Without considering different ages from male and females in other contexts.
The Stanton decision placed the Court on record of declaring that societies stereotypes were not a legitimate basis for official policies that treated men and women differently.
Frontiero v. Richardson
Case heard: 1973
Sharron Frontiero, a lieutenant in the United States Air Force, put in a application for housing and medical benefits for her husband, Joseph, whom she claimed as a "dependent." Servicemen were able to claim their wives as dependents and get benefits for them automatically. Servicewomen had to prove that their husbands were dependent on them for more than half their support. Joseph did not qualify under this rule, and therefore could not get benefits. Sharron sued,
A plurality of the Court found the military's benefit policy unconstitutional, because there was not a reason why military wives needed benefits any more than similarly situated military husbands.
Eisenstadt v. Baird
Case heard 1971
Our bodies our choice right? Not during this court case. Bill Baird a man proclaimed “The father of reproductive rights” held a lecture at Boston University on birth control and overpopulation. After the lecture he proceeded to give a woman Emko Vaginal Foam, a contraceptive. Baird was charged with a felony by state of Massachusetts. Under MA law, contraceptives could only be dispensed by doctors or pharmacists and obtained by married couples.
The court saw this as a clear violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause as the decision to prevent conception is a right of each individual regardless of marital status–not the state.
Duren v. Missouri
Case heard 1978
Billy Duren was convicted of first degree murder and first degree robbery in the state of Missouri. The jury was comprised of 48 men and five women. He alleged that his constitutional rights under the sixth and fourteenth amendments (Due Process and Equal Protection) had been compromised as women made up 54% of the population in Jackson County, yet only 26.7% of the county’s total women were called into the jury pool. The final jury was all male despite the fact that 5 women were pre-selected.
The Supreme Court decided that Duren’s constitutional rights had been violated as the jury was not proportionally selected. Duren was able to shine a light on Jackson County’s practice of exempting women from jury duty.
Califano v. Goldfarb
Case heard 1976
Califano vs Goldfarb was case that was a true test to the outdated ideas of gender norms and the perceived dependency of one sex on the other. Leo Goldfarb applied for Social Security benefits under Survivor Benefits under the Social Security Act (his wife has paid into the system for 25 years.) Men were required to receive at least 50% of support from their wives at the time of passing to be eligible. However, women were not required to meet that same factor to qualify.
The fifth circuit court for the eastern district of New York found the statute unconstitutional.
The government appealed the decision and the case went on to the Supreme Court. They found themselves a verdict of 5 - 4 based on the fact that gender roles are not sufficient to justify the different treatment of widows and widowers which was in clear violation of Due Process.
Phillips v. Martin Marietta
Case heard 1970
Ida Phillips applied for a job at the Martin Marietta Corp. She was informed that applications were not accepted from women with school-aged children. However, the corporation hired men with school-aged children without any problem. Phillips sued, her claim: a violation to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When the case was heard by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the defendants (Marietta Corp) was given a motion for summary judgement based on the fact that the firm hired women.
When the case went to the Supreme Court it was decided that the Martin Marietta Corp did in fact violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it hired men with school aged children but denied the same rights to women under the same circumstances.
Dorthard v. Rawlinson
Case heard 1977
Dianne Rawlinson sought a job with the Alabama Department of Corrections in 1977. At this point the complex reserved the discretion to dismiss applications from anyone weighing less than 120 pounds and shorter than 5’2 ft tall. Rawlinson was denied employment due to her physique and measurements which were banned from “contact positions.” She proceeded to sue the Department of Corrections based on the fact that this statute discriminated against not only her but all women of similar physique and stature as 41% of women in the nation fit that body demographic and were therefore banned from employment at all correctional facilities in the state of Alabama.
The ruling ended in a yes-no decision as the court upheld that contact positions carried out by anyone not meeting the height and weight requirements could create security and operational hazards.
Los Angeles Department of Water nd Power v. Manhart
Case heard 1977
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power found itself in a class action lawsuit when the women in the company noticed that they were being forced to make larger contributions to the employee pension plan based on statistics that determined that women live longer than men.
The women in the company sought an injunction against any further payments and continued to sue the company for violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The company changed its policy on January 1 1975. However, they did not want to issue any backpay for the payments already extracted from its female employees.
The court was split as the data was gathered from statistics in relation to longevity. However, as the data and the conclusions from it only affected women, the Supreme Court did not order for women to be granted back pay but it did stop the usage of such statistical data from targeting either sex.
Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan
Case heard 1982
In a twisted turn for the courts the case of Mississippi University of Women vs. Hogan, Joe Hogan sued the school based on his denied entry to the school’s nursing program. The state tried to argue that its policies maintained educational affirmative action for women.
The court sided with Hogan citing the lack of persuasive argument on behalf of the university’s policies. It also chastised the school for perpetuating the stereotype that nursing is exclusively a woman’s job.
Turner v. Department of Employment Security
Case heard 1975
The state of Utah found itself on the defendant’s seat after Mary Ann Turner decided to sue the state for refusing to pay unemployment because of her pregnancy. Under Utah law all women were denied unemployment 12 weeks before childbirth until six weeks after childbirth. The law presumed that all women were unable to perform their duties regardless of whether they were actually ok to do so (by measure of their own health and ability.)
Mary Ann Turner found herself besides many women who were deemed “handicapped’ because of their pregnancy. The court decided that the law violated the Due Process Clause under the 14th Amendment which explicitly states that no citizen is to be denied the freedoms of personal choice in the matters of marriage and family life as many women are able to work well both until late in their pregnancies and shortly after childbirth.
Roberts v. United States Jaycees
Case heard 1983
The United States Jaycees were started in 1920 as an organization for civic involvement. Throughout their long history they only admitted men between the ages of 18-35. Women and persons over 40 were limited to associate membership which meant they could not vote nor pursue any office. Its Minnesota chapter admitted women as full members under the state’s non-discrimination law.
The Minnesota Jaycees had their membership revoked. The national chapter sued under the pretense that the Minnesota chapter was violating the organization’s right to freedom of association under the First Amendment. The verdict: The court reasoned that Minnesota’s law against discrimination didn’t limit the organization’s freedom to associate as Minnesota’s laws did not infringe upon free speech under the first Amendment.
Orr v. Orr
Case heard 1978
In a case that turned the tables on gender bias and financial obligation, Orr vs Orr changed the government’s viewpoint on gender norms after divorce. The case took off when William Orr was ordered to pay his ex wife alimony. He refused to pay for two years. His ex-wife Lillian took him to court for failure to pay. Under Alabama’s law men were to pay their ex-spouses alimony but not vice versa. William used this clause to challenge the statute as discriminatory and unconstitutional.
The Supreme court declared that gender is not “accurate proxy for financial need” as alimony should be based on financial necessity instead of predetermined gender objectives.