Today is the birthday of Clara Beyer, born in Middletown, California (1892). She was an American labor lawyer and contemporary of Eleanor Roosevelt who campaigned against child labor and for minimum wage.
Beyer served as an adviser to Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins during the Roosevelt administration, and together with Perkins — and another colleague, Molly Dewson — helped to establish the Social Security Act (1935).
Beyer was an outspoken proponent of women’s issues, and she surrounded herself with influential women, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, in a social circle that one columnist called the “Ladies Brain Trust.”
At one point, Beyer was embedded in Washington, D.C., as a researcher studying the wages offered to working women in the area. She discovered that women in the city were consistently receiving less than $16 a week, and sometimes less than $9. She helped to establish a new $16.50 weekly minimum pay, which at that point was the highest minimum wage in the country. In today’s wages, $9 weekly would be equivalent to around $4/hour, and $16.50 around $7.50 an hour.
She remained a foremost expert in World War I-era labor law until her death in 1990, just two years shy of 100.