The patriarchal nature of the American society in the 20th century is evident from the fact that the retired judge named special master to oversee the trial and to decide the compensation amount to the women, had his own biases. He held traditional beliefs and had a history of sexual misconduct. It was also reported that he frequently fell asleep during the testimony and seemed to enjoy the narrations of harassment when awake. Eveleth Mines’ lead counsel during this phase was a woman, and yet she verbally assaulted the plaintiffs to get the damages reduced. Her strategy involved proving that the harassment was the making of the women themselves due to their provocative behavior towards male coworkers and the plaintiffs were dishonest about the severity and the psychological effects. What this shows is the degree to which women themselves were inculcated to believe in their unquestioning subordination to men (Mishkind 147).
Overall, Lois and the other women went through three humiliating trials where their character and personal lives were assaulted over and over again by Eveleth’s lawyers. In addition, they endured the torturous process of litigation, and further torment of the federal court system. The appeals court Judge Donald Lay wrote,
“It should be obvious that the callous pattern and practice of sexual harassment engaged in by Eveleth Mines inevitably destroyed the self-esteem of the working women exposed to it. The emotional harm, brought about by this record of human indecency, sought to destroy the human psyche as well as the human spirit of each plaintiff. The humiliation and degradation suffered by these women is irreparable. Although money damage cannot make these women whole or even begin to repair the injury done, it can serve to set a precedent that in the environment of the working place such hostility will not be tolerated.” (Belton)
The status and rights of women during the last century was largely only in paper. Only when Anita Hill testified against Clarence Thomas in October l991, did the United States finally wake up to the reality of sexual harassment. Before that landmark event, few people knew what to call such persistent predatory behavior as it was accepted the norm. If women needed to earn a living, they were expected to grit it out and take it. The idea that sexual harassment could be viewed as a violation of a woman’s civil rights and her ability to earn a living was very slow to catch up with the public (Mishkind 142).
The much more fair and balanced sexual harassment policies that we see in corporations and educational institutions today owe in large part, to Lori Benson’s determination to put an end to some of the most shameful sexual harassment ever described in print. Although she had to wait for another 10 years to achieve justice, the suit eventually became the cornerstone of modern sexual harassment law. The much liberated women of the 21st century enjoy their freedom and security due to the perseverance and patience of these women (Belton).
Belton, John., American Cinema/American Culture (second edition), McGraw-Hill New York.
Ebert, Roger., North Country Review, October 21, 2005. <rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051020/REVIEWS/51005002>
Mishkind, Charles S. “Sexual harassment hostile work environment class actions: is there cause for concern?.” Employee Relations Law Journal 18.n1 (Summer 1992): 141-147.
Rosen, Ruth., Behind “North Country”,<www.longviewinstitute.org/research/rosen/classaction>
Ronning, G., “Jackpine Savages: Discourses of Conquest in the 1916 Mesabi Iron Range Strike”, Labor History, Vol. 44, No. 3, 2003