Chapter 1

The Early History and Development of US Sexual Harassment Law

Chapter 1 examines activism, theory and legal developments relating to sexual harassment in the 1970s and 1980s.  It covers the early interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the initial rejection of the notion that Title VII prohibits sexual harassment. It follows the shifting tide that resulted in the understanding that sexual harassment constitutes discrimination “because . . . of sex.”  It credits, in part, early feminist activists, lawyers, and scholars who facilitated changes in the law to address the plight of many female workers experiencing sexual harassment.

On this page, you will find archival materials from this period, as well as cases and secondary sources on the early history of the development of sexual harassment law and policy.


Cases
Corne v. Bausch and Lomb, Inc., 390 F.  Supp. 161 (D. Ariz. 1975), vacated and remanded on appeal ...
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Diane Williams made history with her groundbreaking case in 1976, Williams v. Saxbe, 413 F.  Supp. 654 (D.D.C. 1976), the ...
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Feminist lawyer Nadine Taub represented Adrienne Tomkins in one of the earliest sexual harassment cases, Tomkins v. Public Service Elec. & ...
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Paulette L. Barnes v. Douglas M. Costle, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, 561 F.2d 983 (D.C. Cir. 1977), the ...
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Munford v. James T. Barnes & Co., 441 F. Supp. 459 (E.D. Mich. 1977)This case brought by Maxine Munford inspired ...
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Archival Materials
Ithaca-based Working Women United Institute published a newsletter from 1975 to 1976 called WWU Labor Pains, in which they document ...
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Enid Nemy, "Women Begin to Speak Out Against Sexual Harassemnt at Work," New York Times, August 19, 1975 ...
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This 1977 brochure produced by the Boston-based Alliance Against Sexual Coercion, titled "Sexual Harassment at the Workplace," was an early ...
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Historical Scholarship
The Women's Movement Against Sexual Harassment examines how a diverse grassroots social movement created public policy on sexual harassment in ...
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Sexism Takes Flight, Sexting History In the 1960s, the airline industry ramped up its sexualization of stewardesses in order to ...
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Carrie N. Baker, The Women's Movement Against Sexual Harassment (Cambridge University Press, 2007). The Women's Movement Against Sexual Harassment examines ...
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Backhouse, Constance, Sexual Harassment: A Feminist Phrase that Transformed the Workplace (2012). Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 24:2 ...
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Carrie N. Baker, “Race, Class, and Sexual Harassment in the 1970s.” Feminist Studies 30, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 7-27.  ...
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Further Resources
This 11-minute documentary gives a short history of sexual harassment ...
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Return to Introduction Next: Chapter 2