"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.
"Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date
These simple words comprise the entire text of the Equal Rights
Amendment affirming the equal application of the U. S. Constitution to
both females and males.
It seemed so simple and logical and fair back in the seventies when we
were working so hard to get it passed. It still does. When it bit the
dust in June, 1982 we declared a day of mourning and started working at
equality from other directions.
Dr. Alice Paul wrote the ERA in 1921 and it was introduced into every
session of Congress between 1923 and 1972, when it was passed and sent
to the states for ratification. The seven year time limit was extended
by Congress to June 30, 1982, but it was still short three states.
One woman, however, never quit the active battle. Allie Corbin Hixson,
now in her 70's formed a group called ERA Summit, which has started a
campaign to re-introduce the ERA for ratification. There is a potential
loophole, based on the fact that a 203 year ratification period for the
Madison Congressional pay raise amendment, the 27th, sets a precedent.
The ERA Summit has begun work in the 15 states which have not ratified
Colorado, a progressive state in those days, is not one of them. We
ratified the federal ERA, and passed our own Equal Rights Amendment in
1972. We succeeded in defeating an effort to repeal it four years
My files are still overflowing with the material we used in speeches and
letters in favor of the ERA. It represents a chunk of my life that I
can't bear to throw it out. It was an exciting time that coincided with
the beginning of second round of the feminist movement (our grandmothers
had gotten us the vote in the first one) and brought women together to
plan and campaign and learn to work together for a cause -- in little
towns and big cities, and in a national campaign.
But the antis poured out of the woodwork fighting it. Many said it
wasn't needed. State Senator Joe Schieffelin wrote in 1975 that, "It
is certainly asking for trouble when it takes creatures clearly
different because of nature and tries to make them or their 'rights' the
same." Phyllis Schlafley led the female opposition with her fear of
unisex bathrooms (note airplanes and "Ally McBeal") and women in the
military (note Col. Eileen Collins).
But Jim Fain writing for the Cox News Service in December, 1981, spoke
for so many of us, "In any fair appraisal, the women's movement
represents an idea whose time is long overdue. The strides made in
equalizing opportunities for women are up there with the civil rights
advances as among the proudest and best achievements of the United
States in the post World War II era. Unfortunately, there's still a
long way to go.......That won't come about until every girl child is
granted her birthright of a fair shake in making herself whatever her
talents and inclinations permit."
Many still say that the ERA is not needed, that its goals have been
achieved by specific anti-discrimination laws. Certainly women have
made tremendous gains in every field, but every legal action that has
been taken to equalize rights for women has been bitterly fought and
often ignored. The average income of women still averages about 75% of
the income of men doing the same work. There's a long way to go and a
place in the constitution still seems to me to be only fair.
It was a great decade for women - the seventies. We won some and lost
some, but the country will never be quite the same again.
"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the
United States or by any state on account of sex." Pretty radical stuff,