50 Years Of 'Equal Pay' Lip Service From Presidents


On Tuesday night, President Obama was met with a standing ovation after mentioning in his State of the Union address that women shouldn’t get paid less than men, that policies that don’t promote pay equality are from the “Mad Men era.” Turns out, Presidents have been promising to lift women out of the Mad Men era since, uh, well before the Mad Men era.

The first mention of equal pay during a State of the Union address came from — shock of shocks — a Republican, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1956. And, in 1963, when the fictional Don Draper was busy gallivanting with liberated brunettes behind his suburban housewife Betty’s back, President John F. Kennedy was signing the Equal Pay Act. Ever since then, Presidents have issued oratory overtures to the concept of equal pay, but to this day, full economic equality eludes women. It’s almost like Presidents sometimes promise things to get women to vote for them with no intention of ever following up on those promises.


Legislation to apply the principle of equal pay for equal work without
discrimination because of sex is a matter of simple justice. I earnestly urge
the Congress to move swiftly to implement these needed labor measures.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower


President John F. Kennedy signs the Equal Pay Act.

Thus fixing everything!


We remain committed to improving our labor laws to better protect the rights of American workers. And our Nation must make it clear that the legal rights of women as citizens are guaranteed under the laws of our land by ratifying the equal rights amendment.
– President Jimmy Carter

Fun fact: mere months later, the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have constitutionally guaranteed equal pay, would fail.


We move into the 1980’s with confidence and hope and a bright vision of the America we want: an America strong and free, an America at peace, an America with equal rights for all citizens— and for women, guaranteed in the United States Constitution…
-President Jimmy Carter


Even though we have made progress, much remains on the agenda
for women. I remain committed to the Equal RightsAmendment and will
continue to work for its passage.
– President Jimmy Carter

The Equal Rights Amendment has failed in every subsequent legislative session.


Our concern for equal rights for women is firm and unshakable.
We launched a new Task Force on Legal Equity for Women, and a 50-
states project that will examine state laws for discriminatory language.

President Ronald Reagan

Reminder: President Reagan was a Republican.


Our commitment to fairness means that we must assure legal and
economic equity for women, and eliminate, once and for all, all traces of
unjust discrimination against women from the United States Code. We will
not tolerate wage discrimination based on sex, and we intend to strengthen
enforcement of child support laws to ensure that single parents, most of
whom are women, do not suffer unfair financial hardship. We will also take
action to remedy inequities in pensions. These initiatives will be joined by
others to continue our efforts to promote equity for women.
-President Ronald Reagan

If Ronald Reagan were a Republican Congressman in 2014 walking around saying shit about equality, he’d probably lose out to a Tea Partier in a primary.


Opportunities for all Americans will increase if we move forward
in fair housing and work to ensure women’s rights, provide for equitable
treatment in pension benefits and Individual Retirement Accounts…
-President Ronald Reagan


And let’s make sure that women and men get equal pay for equal
work by strengthening enforcement of equal pay laws.
-President Bill Clinton

Yes, let’s. Let’s do this 15 years ago.


We also can’t reward work and family unless men and women get
equal pay for equal work. Today, the female unemployment rate is the
lowest it has been in 46 years. Yet, women still only earn about 75 cents
for every dollar men earn. We must do better, by providing the resources
to enforce present equal pay laws; training more women for high-paying,
high-tech jobs; and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.
-President Bill Clinton


We’re going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws -– so that
women get equal pay for an equal day’s work.
-President Barack Obama

It should be noted that the first act Obama signed into law as President was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which isn’t nothing.


You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the
talent and ingenuity of every person in this country. That means women
should earn equal pay for equal work.
-President Barack Obama


And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living
equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.
-President Barack Obama

Months later, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would block the Paycheck Fairness Act.


Women deserve equal pay for equal work.
You know, she deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship. And you know what, a father does too. It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.
– President Barack Obama

Great stuff, Presidents! But American women, who still make almost across-the-board less than their male counterparts, would probably appreciate a little less conversation and a little more action around this. No one can feed their children with lip service about Equal Pay from the Mad Men era.

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