by Helen Knowles (Whitman)
New at SSRN.
Scholars agree about the socio-political significance of West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (1937), in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Washington State minimum wage law for women. However, they tend to focus on the decision’s relationship to FDR’s Court-packing plan. Little attention has been paid to the stories of the parties; beyond identifying her as the famous-for-five-minutes “Wenatchee chambermaid,” scholars have provided us with minimal information about the plaintiff Elsie Parrish, and even less is known about the lawyers and lower court judges who participated in this landmark case.
Using analysis of local newspaper coverage, the original court documents, and drawing upon information provided by descendants of Elsie Parrish, her lawyer C.B. Conner, and Fred Crollard, the attorney for the West Coast Hotel Company, in this article I bring to light many previously untold details of the local story of Parrish. This material highlights the importance of telling the stories of Supreme Court cases, because it demonstrates that for the residents of Washington State it was the local story, rather than the national narrative, of Parrish that captured their attention.