The Future of the Equal Rights Amendment

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"Everyone in our democracy deserves to be treated with fairness and justice, and to have that right in our constitution," stated former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson (Eisler and Hixson 419). Presently, half of our nation is not protected under the Constitution (Eisler and Hixson 419). The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was proposed in 1923 when Alice Paul concluded that women, although they had the right to vote, were not specifically protected from sexual discrimination by the Constitution. Seventy-five years have passed since the amendment was first introduced, and women still have not secured equal rights under law. By examining the history of the ERA and the opposition it has encountered, I will show why it was defeated in 1982 and determine if the ERA still has a future.

In 1920, women gained the right to vote by the passage of the nineteenth amendment. After this monumental event, the National Women's Party (NWP), led by Alice Paul, split form the National Women's Suffrage Association (NAWSA)(Mayo and Frye 77). The NWP felt that human liberty "as a matter of right and justice" (Mayo and Frye 77). To achieve this, the "Lucretia Mott Amendment," drafted by Alice Paul, was introduced to Congress in 1923 (Eisler and Hixson 420). This forerunner to the current ERA stated, "Men and Women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and in every place subject to jurisdiction" (Eisler and Hixson 429).

The amendment was met with strong opposition. The opponents of the amendment had two main arguments: protective legislation and the role of women in society. Many social reformers felt the amendment would invalidate legislation protection women in the work force. Florence Kelley, secretary of the National Consu...

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