The Equal Rights Amendment

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The Equal Rights Amendment

"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged

by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

In 1923, this statement was admitted to Congress under the Equal Rights

Amendment (ERA). The ERA was a proposed amendment to the United States

Constitution granting equality between men and women under the law. If the Era

was passed, it would have made unconstitutional any laws that grant one sex

different rights than the other. However, in the 1970s, the Era was not passed,

and therefore did not become law.

The idea for an equal rights amendment first became acknowledged in the

early part of the twentieth century. In 1916, Alice Paul founded the National

Women's party (NWP), a political party dedicated to establishing equal rights

for women. Traditionally, women were viewed as weaker and inferior to men. The

purpose of the ERA was to prohibit any person from acting on this belief. Alice

Paul viewed that equality under the law was the foundation essential to full

equality for women.

In November of 1922, the NWP voted to work for a federal amendment that

could guarantee women's equal rights regardless of legislatures' indecisions.

The NWP had 400 women lobbying for equality.

Despite strong opposition by some women and men, the NWP introduced and

Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1923. In order to

become law, the amendment needed a two-thirds vote in both houses of the

congress of the United States, or a supporting petition of two-thirds of the

state legislatures. Then the amendment would have required ratification by

three-fourths of the states. However, it failed to get the two-thirds majority

required to move onto the states for approval. The proposed amendment also

failed in following sessions until 1972, when it won a majority vote in Congress.

The main objectives of the women's movement included equal pay for equal

work, federal support for day-care centers, recognition of lesbian rights,

continued legalization of abortion, and the focus of serious attention on the

problems of rape, wife and child beating, and discrimination against older and

minority women. The ERA would have addressed all of these issues if it were


Had it been adopted, the ERA would have resolved the paradox of an

oppressed majorit...

... middle of paper ...

...t giving the Supreme Court and federal agencies

authority to spell out the meaning of equal rights would be risky. Decisions

made on such a level would be too far removed from the ideas and desires of the

people. Opponents felt that equal rights should be dealt with on a local or

state level where legislators can be voted out of position if the people do not

like some of the decisions made.

Although the ERA did not pass, all of the actions made by NOW, NWP, and

any of the other women's movements, have greatly aided women in their battle

against sex discrimination in the work place, in educational institutions, and

in their roles as wives and mothers, and finally laid to rest the controversy

over protective legislation and equal rights. Like the Fourteenth

Amendment, we are inclined to forget that the ERA was designed not to change

values but to modify behavior of mainstream citizens by changing the

constitutional status of a particular group. The ERA's purpose was and is to

provide equality of opportunity through the Constitution and legal system for

those women who want to realize full personal and professional expectations

within mainstream America.
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