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Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive


Many jobs that had been for men only were made available for women--so long as they could meet the physical requirements. The bona fide occupational qualification exception to Title VII--permitting discrimination where it is reasonably necessary to the job--therefore would no longer be used to exclude women from most job opportunities.

The passage of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act raised the hopes of millions of American women who believed they would now receive fair treatment in the workplace. The law makes it "an unlawful employment practice for any employer . . . to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." It took effect in July of 1965.

However, the legal battles that accompanied the enforcement of this legislation unearthed sexism unchanged by law. This sexism--sometimes remnants of earlier protective legislation for women--was no longer a legal excuse to exclude women from the work place. Still women had to sue to combat sex discrimination and workplace restrictions.

The experiences of Thelma Bowe, an employee of the Colgate-Palmolive plant in Jeffersonville, Indiana, illustrated the challenges that women continued to face in combating sex discrimination that persisted even after the Civil Rights Act.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive - Significance, Protective Legislation, Gender Segregation, The First Round, Appeals Court Overrules, Impact