The history of women’s rights & equality in Minnesota

Women in the United States gained suffrage in 1919 through the passing of the 19th amendment. In fact, the first vote by a woman in the U.S. was in South Saint Paul, Minnesota. In the century since, the Minnesota Legislature has continued to pass monumental bills for women’s rights and equality.

The 1970’s included a number of bills and amendments in the fight for women’s equality.

  • 1973: Minnesota Legislature ratified the Equality Rights Amendment to the state Constitution.
  • 1974: Roe v. Wade passed by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Minnesota Legislature passed laws to match the decision in order to decriminalize and legalize abortion
  • 1975: Kahn Act provided equal opportunity for women in athletics
  • 1977: Minnesota became the first state to provide funding for battered women’s shelters
  • 1978: Affirmative Action passed to include “females” as a protected category

The Minnesota Legislature continued its work towards equal rights for women during the 1980s and 90s.

  • 1982: Prohibition on Sexual Harassment
  • 1985: Equity in Education Bill
  • 1987: Parental Leave Act granted Minnesotan employees six weeks of leave after the birth or adoption of a child
  • 1990: Legal requirements for employers to provide reasonable accommodations for those experiencing pregnancy or childbirth-related disabilities.
  • 1993: Minnesota Human Rights Act made Minnesota the first state to provide legal protections for those who are discriminated against based on sexual orientation. Notably, this Act provided specific protections for Transgender women, the first of its kind in the Nation
  • 1995: Labor Education Advancement Program, otherwise known as LEAP, paved the way for women and minorities to enter into apprentice trades

In recent years, Minnesota has continued to support women through crucial legislation. In 2014, the Women’s Economic Security Act provided key protections and support for women’s economic stability, worked to reduce the gender pay gap in Minnesota, and further protected women from workplace harassment and discrimination. In 2020, the marriage of minors was prohibited through legislation, repealing the previous law that allowed 16- and 17-year-old children to legally marry with the permission of a guardian.

Throughout Minnesota’s legislative history, women’s rights have been and continue to be a crucial component of the fight for equality.