EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT
The 14th Amendment (1868)
Guaranteed former (male) slaves equal protection and the right to vote under the law.
In 1976 the Supreme Court ruled that under the 14th amendment, men and women could be treated differently under the law only if it served an “important governmental objective."
The 15th Amendment (1870)
Guaranteed former slaves the right to
vote regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
The 19th Amendment (1920)
Guaranteed citizens the right to vote, regardless of sex.
Which amendment guaranteed equal rights for all citizens,
regardless of sex?
What does the Equal Rights Amendment say?
Who was Alice Paul?
Answer: None of them. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
No amendment in the U.S. constitution
guarantees equal rights regardless of sex.
Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is sex discrimination prohibited.
Any efforts to protect against, or bring action against, sex discrimination do not have a legal leg to stand on and can be weakened and repealed by legislative action.
Kind of crazy that basic equal rights need constitutional protection, huh? But they do.
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged
by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
That's it! Kind of a no brainer, right?
Alice Paul was a Suffragist who got the 19th Amendment passed in 1920 and then wrote the ERA in 1923.
Cool. What's a "Suffragist?"
Suffragist: a person who works for the right to vote.
How did she get all that stuff done??
In 1916 Alice Paul helped found the National Woman’s Party, which led to the first-ever picket outside the White House. Known as the "Silent Sentinels", nearly 2,000 women picketed between January 10th, 1917 and June 4, 1919, Six days a week, in rain and snow, they carried their signs silently demanding the right to vote. Hundreds were arrested, and many were jailed, beaten, and harassed.
Almost 200 women, including Alice Paul, spent the summer and fall of 1917 in Occoquan Workhouse, a prison in Virginia. They protested their sentences by going on a hunger strike, which led to prison wardresses force-feeding them through tubes down their nostrils, a practice now recognized as a form of torture.
Prison officials sent Alice to the psychiatric ward in hopes of getting her declared insane and she remained there for a week before being sent to the hospital ward for continued force feedings on November 18th. While in the hospital she managed to have a letter smuggled out, detailing the treatment of the suffragettes. When news of the prison conditions and hunger strikes became known, the press, some politicians, and the public demanded the women’s release.
Hunger strikes? Torture? Was it worth it??
They thought so, especially once they were released. In response to public outcry about how the suffragists had been treated, President Wilson finally announced his support for the suffrage amendment. Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and, after a year, 36 states ratified the amendment and in August of 1920 American women won the right to vote.
While many suffragists retired after the 19th Amendment was enacted, Alice Paul believed the true battle for equality had yet to be won. In 1923 she announced that she would be working for a new constitutional amendment, one that called for absolute equality. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced in every session of Congress from 1923 until it passed in 1972.
Wait. The ERA passed in 1972?? So why am I here?
In order for an amendment to become part of the constitution, it has to pass through two stages:
1. It must be approved by two-thirds of the House and Senate.
2. Once approved it must be sent it to all 50 states for a vote. Three-fourths of the states must affirm the Amendment for it to ratified.
By 1970, Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon were all behind an ERA. The National Organization of Women promoted the heck out of it and women everywhere organized huge demonstrations in its favor. It worked.
In 1972, Congress passed Alice Paul's ERA. It sailed through the House, with a 93.4 percent majority, and the Senate easily passed it with a 91.3 percent majority. Stage 1 complete!
Now it was sent to the states. It would need three fourths, or 38 states, to become law. And they had seven years to decide, thanks to an agreement by both parties. The ERA was on its way.
I'm sensing a big BUT...
In 1972, an astounding 22 states ratified and the majority of Americans supported equality. In 1973, 8 more states followed suit, making a total of 30. Only 3 states ratified in 1974, one in 1975, and none in 1976. In 1977 Indiana became the last state to ratify, for a total of 35.
So, you may ask, what had happened to all that amazing momentum?
Alice Paul and her fellow activists were skillful political strategists, but they met their match in Phyllis Schlafly, who arguably halted the ERA single-handedly.
Undeniably brilliant, Phyllis Stewart attended Maryville College in St. Louis and transferred to Washington University where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in only three years, at 19. She won a scholarship to study political science at Radcliffe, and earned a master’s degree there in nine months. When she was twenty-five years old, Phyllis McAlpin Stewart married attorney John Fred Schlafly Jr., a member of a wealthy St. Louis family. They settled in a six-bedroom Tudor-style mansion overlooking the Mississippi River in Alton, Illinois in a St. Louis suburb and raised nine children.
"I spent 25 years raising my children. I did not have a paid job since I got married, but homemakers are not chained to the stove."
"What I am defending is the real rights of women. A woman should have the right to be in the home as a wife and mother."
She employed a full-time housekeeper, wrote nine books, ran for Congress three times, studied law full-time at Washington University, was editor of a newsletter which eventually became the Eagle Forum, and spoke regularly at conservative rallies, all the while telling women they should stay at home and mind their husbands.
"By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don't think you can call it rape." ~ From a March 2007 speech at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine
Her foes considered her the ultimate hypocrite, and as out of touch with the traditional housewife and the average working woman as one could get. But in Illinois, her anti-ERA activists followed her to the offices of state legislators with homemade jams, bread, and apple pies with signs reading, "Preserve us from a congressional jam, Vote against the ERA sham" and, "I am for Mom and apple pie."
"News flash: one reason a woman gets married is to be supported by her husband while caring for her children at home. So long as her husband earns a good income, she doesn’t care about the pay gap between them." ~ Phyllis Schlafly The Phyllis Schlafly Eagle Forum
She drew support by stoking fear in poorly educated conservatives and her distortions of the ERA became increasingly ridiculous. But the more outlandish her rhetoric became, the more press she got and the more entrenched her followers became. It's a time-worn political strategy, and it worked. Not only had STOP ERA killed the momentum of the ratification, but five states eventually rescinded.
"The most censored speech in America today is not flag-burning, pornography, or the press. The worst censors are those prohibiting criticism of the theory of evolution in the classroom." ~ Phyllis Schlafly The Phyllis Schlafly Eagle Forum
"The first goal of the "women's liberation" movement was unilateral divorce, allowing one spouse (now usually the wife) to terminate a marriage without the consent of the other spouse. This drastic change in our social mores was marketed under the deceitful title "no fault." ~ Phyllis Schlafly The Phyllis Schlafly Eagle Forum
STOP! Tell me something good happened next.