In the most recent issue of the Ramsey County History magazine, Ramsey County Chief Judge John H. Guthmann’s piece on Clara Anderson is one of the featured articles. In this well-researched article, he describes the circumstances that led up to Ms. Anderson’s case, clearly explains the legal arguments that supported her case, and then outlines the changes to the law after she lost her final appeal in the Minnesota Supreme Court in the late spring of 1948.

Long-time readers might remember this bit of Ramsey County history from a previous blog post, but here is a quick reminder of who was Clara Anderson, and why her case is so interesting. Ms. Anderson started as a waitress at the Frederic Hotel in St. Paul, MN in 1936. In 1940, she changed jobs, and was then identified as a bartender at the same hotel. Her salary increased dramatically; as a waitress she received $45 a month (plus tips), but as a bartender, her pay increased to $200, with her room, board, and meals included.

When World War II ended and men came back from the war, they found that many of the jobs at home were being performed by women. Bartender unions, many with “male-only” membership requirements, pressured governments across the county to ban women from the lucrative bartending positions so that their male members could step into these jobs. The St. Paul City Council, with the strong encouragement of the St. Paul’s Bartender Union Local 287, passed Ordinance 8604 which prevented women (except for the owner’s wife) from tending the bar.  Understandably upset at the prospect of losing her job, Ms. Anderson sued the City of St. Paul.

We encourage you to read Judge Guthmann’s article to find out more about the case, and what happened afterwards. (Hint – eventually, St. Paul amended Ordinance 8604 in 1970.) In addition to the excellent research, the article has many pictures showing pictures of the judges, attorneys, and parties in the case, as well photos of historical downtown St. Paul. And a small plug for the law library: There is nice picture of Judge Carlton McNally, who was the first judge to weigh in on Ms. Anderson’s case. The portrait is part of the Ramsey County Law Library’s Judicial Portrait collection.

 

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