Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, 261 U.S. 525 (1923)

Case Name: Adkins v. Children’s Hospital
Citation: 261 U.S. 525 (1923)


Issue: Whether a District of Columbia act which instituted a minimum wage for women interfered with the freedom of contract under the 5th Amendment.


Facts: The act in question is a minimum wage law for women in the District of Columbia. It is argued that the act is unconstitutional because it interferes with the freedom of contract (included in the Due Process clause of the 5th Amendment). The other side is that it is within the police power of DC because it safeguards the morals of women.


Holding: The act “passes the limit prescribed by the Constitution.”


Reasoning: The differences between the sexes (as described in Muller v. Oregon) have diminished; especially, with the adoption of the 19th Amendment. A woman cannot be emancipated and given special protection in her contractual and civil relationships.


In response to the argument that the act is within the District of Columbia’s police power: “The relation between earnings and morals is not capable of standardization.” There are too many factors that determine the earnings a woman needs: individual temperament, habits of thrift, and whether a woman lives with a family or by herself. There is no reasonable connection between morals and wages.

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