With legislative politics on the front burner, the time is propitious to write about a public information resource I have long intended highlight: The Minnesota Women’s Legislative Timeline: Significant Legislation Passed by the Minnesota Legislature Since Suffrage is a joint project of the Office on the Economic Status of Women and the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, funded in part by the Minnesota Historical Society with Legacy funds..
As stated in the introduction, “the objective of the timeline is to have a visual display of the history of significant laws for women, passed by the Minnesota Legislature, since the advent of women’s suffrage.” The authors add that, though “Minnesota approved the suffrage amendment in 1919…the 19th Amendment wasn’t fully ratified until 1920.”
The resulting timeline is truly revelatory, a legislative take on how change happens. In 1931 the issue was women jurors, then came changes in protective labor laws (1924), child desertion (1931) and common law marriage (1941).
It is not surprising to note that the 40’s and 50’s saw little legislative action on social issues, including women’s concerns.
By the mid-1960’s the pace had quickened. In 1967 the Legislature created the Department of Human Rights which included a division to assist women. That law was amended in 1969 to include protections against discriminatory wage rates based on gender in the workplace. .
Focus moved to changes in workplace-related legislation with passage of parental leave (1989) followed a decade later by laws dealing with pregnant employees and accommodations for nursing mothers in 1998. 21st Century legislation turns to grave concerns related to issues of sex trafficking (2005-2009) and domestic violence (2010).
These are highpoints only. The timeline is far more comprehensive, meticulously annotated with legal references and links to the law. For many of the entries the compilers offer a clear and concise explanatory essay. The timeline also includes biographies of all of Minnesota’s women legislators.
Taken as a whole, the unique resource offers an overview of how change happens in the legislative arena – progress made and next steps.
The Minnesota Women’s Legislative Timeline stands as a tribute to the vision and work of librarians who maintained, organized and probed the legalrecord, the power of collaboration among state agencies, the impact of Legacy funds and the power of digital tools to expand access to essential public information.