Muller v. Oregon
208 U.S. 412 (1908)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Muller v. Oregon, 208 U.S. 412 (1908)

Muller v. Oregon

No. 107

Argued January 15, 1908

Decided February 24, 1908

208 U.S. 412

Syllabus

The peculiar value of a written constitution is that it places, in unchanging form, limitations upon legislative action, questions relating to which are not settled by even a consensus of public opinion; but when the extent of one of those limitations is affected by a question of fact which is debatable and debated, a widespread and long continued belief concerning that fact is worthy of consideration.

This Court takes judicial cognizance of all matters of general knowledge -- such as the fact that woman's physical structure and the performance of maternal functions place her at a disadvantage which justifies a difference in legislation in regard to some of the burdens which rest upon her.

As healthy mothers are essential to vigorous offspring, the physical wellbeing of woman is an object of public interest. The regulation of her hour of labor falls within the police power of the State, and a statute directed exclusively to such regulation does not conflict with the due process or equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The right of a State to regulate the working hours of women rests on the police power and the right to preserve the health of the women of the State, and is not affected by other laws of the State granting or denying to women the same rights as to contract and the elective franchise as are enjoyed by men.

While the general liberty to contract in regard to one's business and the sale of one's labor is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, that liberty is subject to proper restrictions under the police power of the State.

The statute of Oregon of 1903 providing that no female shall work in certain establishments more than ten hour a day is not unconstitutional so far as respects laundries.

48 Oregon, 252, affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality of the statute

Page 208 U. S. 413

of Oregon limiting the hours of employment of women, are stated in the opinion.

Page 208 U. S. 416

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Primary Holding

Since the state has a compelling interest in protecting the health of women, the Fourteenth Amendment does not prevent it from restricting their working hours.