Did you know that the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is still only a PROPOSED Amendment to the Constitution in America?
On March 22nd, 1972, the US Senate approved the ERA (after the US House of Representatives had approved on October 12th, 1971) which meant that it was sent to each State legislature for ratification.
Currently, 26 States have passed an Equal Rights Amendment to their constitutions. Another 3 have passed it through at least one house.
Unfortunately, not enough State legislatures ratified the ERA by the June 30th, 1982 deadline date (which was an extension of the initial March 22nd, 1979 deadline). The ERA needed ratification in 38 State legislatures so that it could be moved towards inclusion in the Constitution.
Now, within the first year, 30 States had approved ratification of the ERA. However, 5 of those States actually voted to rescind the ratifications before the deadline. There is a debate about whether those 5 could still be included in the number of States that ratified, but only 5 more States had ratified before the June 30th, 1982 deadline meaning that it was not moved towards the Federal Constitution.
Now, what happened to all that momentum the ERA had at the beginning? Enter Phyllis Schlafly, a Republican anti-feminist, who started the “STOP ERA” campaign in 1972. Phyllis Schlafly was a highly controversial figure in the ERA fight. STOP was actually an acronym that stood for Stop Taking Our Privileges. The “Privileges” that Schlafly was talking about were gender-specific such as: Social Security “Dependent Wife” benefits, separate bathrooms for men and women as well as women being exempt from the Military draft.
Karen DeCrow, president of NOW (National Organization for Women) in the mid-’70s, once said of Schlafly, “I think what Phyllis is doing is absolutely dreadful, but I just can’t think of anyone who’s so together and tough. I mean, everything you should raise your daughter to be. . . . She’s an extremely liberated woman.”
DeCrow pointed out something that Schlafly never seemed to understand. Schlafly was very privileged to be able to enjoy autonomy in her life, but did not understand that was not the case for most women in America at that time.
I highly recommend reading what Katherine Kolbert wrote about Schlafly on October 31st, 2005 in The New Yorker. It is filled with some excellent anecdotes about Schlafly’s life and her role in preventing women from achieving Equal Rights in America.