Adkins v. Children's Hospital

In Adkins v. Children's Hospital, 261 U.S. 525 (1923), the Supreme Court had under consideration an act of Congress fixing minimum wages for women and children in the District of Columbia. The legislation, so far as it affected women, was held invalid as contravening the due process of law clause of the Fifth Amendment, because it was an arbitrary interference with the right to contract in respect of terms of private employment. It was said (p. 546) that while there was no such thing as absolute freedom of contract, nevertheless, freedom of contract was the general rule and restraint the exception; and that "the exercise of legislative authority to abridge it can be justified only by the existence of exceptional circumstances."