"The movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone, and then you get

a great mosaic at the end."

 

Alice Paul (1885-1977)

Be Informed

What We Should Know About The History Of The ERA

 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Preamble to the Declaration of Independence (1776)

 

These were the founding principles, but not the legal basis, upon which our country was founded. 

 

Our U.S. Constitution (1787) and the Bill of Rights (1795) became the legal basis for our government and laws. At that time, women had few rights under the law. Women could not vote, could not own land, could not represent themselves in court, could not inherit. Those founding documents did not include women (or African slaves or Native Americans) in the rights and citizenship of the new country. Nor did the framers intend to include them. After the Civil War, two ‘Reconstruction’ Amendments, XIV and XV, granted rights to the newly-freed African male slaves, but not to women or Native Americans.

 

The XIV Amendment (1868) and its Equal Protection clause, 

 

“nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law: nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” 

 

was intended to protect the rights of newly freed African slaves.  It was the first mention of ‘rights’ in the Constitution (remember, the ‘all men are created equal’ ideal is from the Declaration of Independence, an inspiring statement, but not the Constitution, not a legal basis for laws).  It would take 100 more years for the United States to force the southern States to allow the descendants of slaves to vote (Civil Rights Act 1963).  It would take another 52 years for women to vote (1920).  The XIV Amendment has not been interpreted in the courts as a means of protecting women from discrimination.  That was not its intent, in the context of 1868.

 

The Equal Rights Amendment (passed in 1972)

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

 

The ERA was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972 and sent to the states for ratification.  By 1982, it had been ratified by only 35 of the necessary 38 state legislatures.  Due to the time limit placed on ratification, it was considered to have expired.  ERA ratification bills have been introduced in Congress every year since 1982 without ever leaving committee. 

 

The states that did not ratify the ERA between 1972 and 1982 were: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

 

Twenty-three states in the Union now have a state ERA.  They have varying content and effectiveness.

 

Maine does not have a state equal rights provision in its constitution.

A more thorough history of the ERA can be found here:

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