The Equal Rights Amendment


 

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal rights for women. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul and, in 1923, it was introduced in the Congress for the first time. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress and went to the state legislatures for ratification.

 

The resolution in Congress that proposed the amendment set a ratification deadline of March 22, 1979. Through 1977, the amendment received 35 of the 38 state ratifications. Five states later rescinded their ratifications before the 1979 deadline, though the validity of these rescissions is disputed. In 1978, a joint resolution of Congress extended the ratification deadline to June 30, 1982, but no further states ratified the amendment before the passing of the second deadline. Several feminist organizations, I.E. the National Organization of Women, disputing the validity and/ or the permanence of the ratification deadline, and also disputing the validity of the five rescissions, continue to work at the federal and state levels for the adoption of the ERA.

 

Following the 1920 ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment,which granted women throughout the United States the unabridged right to vote, Alice Paul, a suffragist leader argued that this right alone would not end discrimination based upon sex.

 

Upon its introduction, the Equal Rights Amendment stirred up debate about the direction of the ideology and tactics of the women’s women’s movement. The National Women’s Party supported the amendment, arguing that women should be on equal terms with men in all regards, even if that means sacrificing certain benefits given to women though protective legislation, such as shorter work hours. However, opponents of the amendment believed that these gender-based benefits protected women as they entered new spheres, such as the work industry

 

In 1924, the Forum hosted a debate between Doris Stevens and Alice Hamilton concerning these two perspectives on the proposed amendment. Their debate reflected the wider tension in the developing feminist movement of the 20th century between tow approaches towards the equality of gender. One focused on the similarities between the sexes and demanded rights based on women being human beings. The other one emphasized women’s unique experiences and how they were different from men to obtain recognition for their specific needs.

 

I got involved in Women’s Issues in the 1970’s. The ERA wasn’t the only issue for women that I worked on. Violence in women’s lives and women’s reproductive rights. I debated and lobbied in Harrisburg. I wanted to leave a better world than I found for women and children. So I will be unfolding the importance of the ERA for everyone in our country. Women are the only American citizens who are not legally equal. How long will women willingly put us with a second class status?

 

Alice Paul Stamp.

Alice Paul Stamp.

A sepia tone photo of Alice Paul.

A sepia tone photo of Alice Paul.

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