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United States. Women's Bureau
The Legal Status of Women in the United States of America. January 1, 1938. Report for North Carolina. An Advance Printing of Individual State Material, Constituting Part of a Compilation Now Being Prepared to Show the Present Legal Status of Women in the United States of America
Washington: Government Printing Office, 1939.


Congress established The Women's Bureau of the United States Department of Labor on June 5, 1920, to protect woman workers' rights and address their specific needs. The U.S. had created a similar agency in 1918 as part of emergency legislation during World War I. According to National Archive Records, the new permanent Women's Bureau was charged with creating "policies and programs to benefit working women economically and improve working conditions"; evaluating existing labor legislation based on these conditions; and cooperating with "international agencies and U.S. delegates attending international conferences" to implement world-wide change for women workers. As part of these functions, the bureau produced reports, pamphlets, and other written resources, such as this 1938 report, which was to become part of a larger nationwide study detailing the status of woman workers across the country and that would eventually be submitted to the League of Nations.

The report examines laws and statutes relating to the legal status of women, particularly married women, in North Carolina. Topics covered include women's property and civil rights as well as specific legal exemptions for women. One law stated, for instance, that "No woman may be arrested in any civil action except for a willful injury to person, character, or property" (p. 7). The report also addresses rules governing women's earnings, purchasing power, and political participation, and it gives an overview of North Carolina family-related laws, which prohibited interracial marriage and designated the father as "the natural guardian of his children" (p. 17). When appropriate and available, applicable court cases, reports, and selections from the state constitution are referenced in the report's explanation of the law or statute.

Works Consulted: "Guide to Federal Records: Records of the Women's Bureau," National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 86, 16 August 2006,; "Women's Bureau—An Overview: 1920-2003," United States Department of Labor, Women's Bureau, 16 August 2006, .

Monique Prince

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