9 Colum. J. Gender & L. 47 (1999)
Confided to His Care or Protection: The Late Nineteenth-Century Crime of Workplace Sexual Harassment

handle is hein.journals/coljgl9 and id is 51 raw text is: CONFIDED TO HIS CARE OR PROTECTION:
THE LATE NINETEENTH-CENTURY CRIME
OF WORKPLACE SEXUAL HARASSMENT
SARA MCLEAN*
INTRODUCTION
Catherine MacKinnon wrote in 1979, Sexual harassment, the
experience, is becoming 'sexual harassment, the legal claim. In fact, just as the
experience of sexual harassment far predated the first sexual harassment claims
under Title VII,' so, too, did sexual harassment as a claim of legal injury. In
recent years, legal historians have begun to examine American law's early
responses to women's sexual exploitation at work. In a 1996 article, Professor
Lea Vandervelde studied the nineteenth-century tort of seduction as a legal claim
for sexual harassment. 3 The following year, Professor Jane Larson investigated
the campaign to raise state age of consent laws at the end of the nineteenth
century, concluding that it sought, in part, to provide women recourse against
sexual abuse by employers and by others in positions of authority. 4
Trial Attorney, Department of Justice, Civil Division. J.D., Yale Law School. A.B.,
Princeton University. Many thanks to Professor Reva Siegel for her extensive guidance and
invaluable comments on this project. I am also grateful to the participants in her 1997 seminar on
historical perspectives on women in the law, whose insights shaped this piece. I owe a great debt
to my history professors Stephen Aron and John Wertheimer and, in this case especially, Christine
Stansell, who ignited my interest in American women's history. Finally, thanks to the editors of the
Columbia Journal of Gender and Law and to my family. The ideas in this article of course are my
own and not those of the Department of Justice.
I
Catherine A. MacKinnon, Sexual Harassment of Working Women: A Case of Sex
Discrimination 57 (1979). See also Susan Estrich, Sex at Work, 43 Stan. L. Rev. 813,816 (1991)
(discussing the recent vintage of sexual harassment suits).
2
See MacKinnon, supra note 1, at 65 (citing Bell v. Williams, 413 F. Supp. 654 (D.D.C.
1976), as the first time a federal judge held sexual harassment to be actionable sex discrimination
under Title VII of 1964 Civil Rights Act).
3
See Lea Vandervelde, The Legal Ways of Seduction, 48 Stan. L. Rev. 817 (1996).
4 See Jane E. Larson, Even a Worm Will Turn at Last: Rape Reform in Late
Nineteenth-Century America, 9 Yale J. Law & Hum. 1,4 (1997).

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