I was working recently on the endless job of sorting pictures. Too many
years of dumping them all in a drawer have caught up with me and I find
pictures of my parents and grandparents having a picnic in Genessee Park
next to pictures of my 85th birthday party. The problem with this
particular sorting job is that certain pictures jog memory into a dead
Mine stopped in the seventies with snapshots of the ERA march in Grand
Junction. Those were exciting times for women. The local chapter of
NOW was formed and the ERA had finally gone to the states for
ratification. We met and we marched and we sang and we probably yelled
a little bit. We decided that women had been second class citizens
long enough and we weren't going to take it any more! Our ages varied,
but nost of the women in the pictures with big "ERA NOW" signs pinned on
the backs of their T shirts were young and full of energy and anger at
the doors that were closed to us. And we were having fun, too. This
was the first time since the suffrage fights of the 19th century that
women had really come together in a political cause that was vital to
Nearly thirty years later we have aged a lot, and probably mellowed a
bit, but most of us still call ourselves, privately at least,
"Feminists." One of the gang who winters elsewhere recently sent me an
essay titled, "The Collapse of Patriarchy." She said, "Yes, I am still
a good "F" and keeping the Ideaology up despite many odds!"
Some of you, of course, are young enough that you do not realize what
we were marching for. ERA stands for the Equal Rights Amendment and it
simply said, "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or
abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." That
seemed pretty reasonable to us and still does. But oh what a war it
Suffrageist leader, Dr. Alice Paul, proposed an amendment that would put
women in the constitution in 1923. Each year, for forty-nine years the
amendment was submitted to Congress and defeated. Finally on March 22,
1972 it passed both houses of Congress. On that day Senator Sam Erwin
of North Carolina, its main opponent, acknowledged defeat. Raising both
fists toward the ceiling he intoned, "Father, forgive them. They know
not what they do . . . American Womanhood (will be) crucified on a cross
of dubious equality and specious uniformity."
American womanhood did not get crucified on the Senator's cross.
American womanhood wanted real political, financial and social
equality. They certainly did not want uniformity. The equality is
coming -- slowly.
The ERA did go down to defeat, however. Ten years later only 35 states
had ratified it -- we needed just three more. We had a wake in Grand
Junction on June 30, 1982 -- at my house.
But Colorado has always honored its women. Colorado was the first
state in the Union to approve women's suffrage in a popular election in
Colorado was one of the first states to ratify the federal Equal Rights
Amendment in 1972, and in November of that year, Colorado voters adopted
a state Equal Rights Amendment.
So why were we marching in Grand Junction with "ERA NOW" signs pinned
to the backs of our ERA T-shirts in 1976? The anti ERA forces managed
to get an amendment on the ballot rescinding Colorado's ratification.
But the antis lost. Led by the newly activist women, including our
marchers in Grand Junction, the recision was defeated.
A National ERA march was held in Denver in 1980 and I wore out a lot of
shoe leather that day.
Even without the ERA, the progress of women since those days has been
great. But it is so easy to forgot what - and who - went into making
that progress possible. The word "Feminist" has become the "F" word as
women are taking their place in politics, business and in the
As I look at those snapshots taken 26 years ago, I am so proud. We were
part of a revolution that has changed the lives of women.
Wonder what pictures I'll turn up next.