Congratulations to the Women's Bureau on its 100th Anniversary! As Secretaries of Labor who worked with and supported the Women's Bureau over the years, we thank the Bureau's past and present leadership and staff for advancing and protecting working women and their families. For decades, they have aggressively researched and pioneered innovative policies and programs to further the Women's Bureau's unique 1920 Congressional Mandate. This important anniversary gives us an opportunity both to reflect on where America's working women have been and what the future should hold for them in an ever-changing new century.
Women have made tremendous progress since 1920 and the establishment of the Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor. The agency was born out of a 1911 tragedy when 146 immigrant women and girls died in the Triangle Shirt Waist Garment Factory fire that garnered national attention. That tragedy in turn gave birth to the beginning of worker protections. In 1938, the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act-legislation shaped in significant ways by Women's Bureau research and advocacy-set in motion a host of worker standards at the Federal level including pay, overtime and the prohibition of child labor across a wide range of American jobs.
During WW1, women marched out of the kitchen and into Home Front war industries including aircraft production, small-arms and artillery ammunition. shipyards and supply depots. The Women's Bureau supported these efforts by pushing for modifications of state labor laws to facilitate women's participation. After the war, the Bureau focused on women's employment with an emphasis on bringing more women into medical and health services. science, mathematics, statistics, social work, legal professions and law enforcement.
In 1963, the Women's Bureau was instrumental in the creation of the first President's Commission on the Status of Women. Its goal was to increase women's participation at all levels across the career spectrum. The same year, the Women's Bureau provided important research and data for position papers to ensure the passage of the Equal Pay Act requiring women and men be given equal pay for equal work in the same workplace.
ln 1978 Bureau staff in collaboration with women's community and advocacy groups, played a pivotal role in the passage of the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits companies from refusing to hire or firing women based on their pregnancy. In the same era, the Women's Bureau sponsored legislation to admit women into formal apprenticeship programs for the first time. This was followed in 1993 when again the Bureau was instrumental in crafting language for the Family and Medical Leave Act. This legislation protects eligible women and men who need time off for medical conditions or to take care of a child or parent. In addition, the Bureau developed a comprehensive Know Your Rights initiative, aimed at educating women on the hard-earned workplace laws and policies that protect them and their families.
Faced with challenging new dynamics in the 21st Century, the Women's Bureau and its ten regional offices, developed a host of innovative programs to prepare women for better paying careers. These programs highlighted the importance of childcare, workplace flexibility, IT literacy, non-traditional occupations, as well as financial literacy and entrepreneurship.
While we celebrate this Women's Bureau centennial and its stellar legacy with pride, today's unprecedented reality calls out to us as well. It is essential in this COVID-19 pandemic era that we revisit the past Federal victories made for working women and their families--workplace safety, job security, childcare and healthcare needs. To preserve these gains, we must recalibrate and improve these policies to support its 1920 Congressional Mandate to develop i.e..."Standards and policies which shall promote the welfare of wage-earning women."
Today we acknowledge that women's work is never done and neither should the work of the Federal Women's Bureau.