Pioneers Along the Journey to Women's Equality

Abigail Adams (1744 - 1818)

In 1776, America's founding principle, All Men Are Created Equal established that wealthy, white, land-owning males became the artificial standard of comparison for all human beings. Women and slaves were legally owned as property.

Abigail Adams
in letters to her husband, John, urged him to equate the legal status of women alongside of men in the New World. 

I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for, whilst you are proclaiming peace and good will to men, emancipating all
nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives. But you must remember that arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken; and notwithstanding all your wise laws and maxims, we have it in our power, not only to free ourselves, but to subdue our masters, and without violence, throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet."                                       

However, 56 wealthy, white, land-owning males declared their independence from the king of England and established themselves as the standard of comparison to decide the fate of all others.  Women became the property of men and were legally barred from establishing and participating in American
law, government, business, education, military, religious and social institutions.

For the past 223 years, women have waged an uphill struggle for autonomy.  Full equality under law has not been achieved yet and requires ratification of the Equal RIghts Amendment to overthrow centuries of patriarchal domination by tradition.

Author of Equal Rights Amendment

Dr. Alice Stokes Paul (1855 - 1977)

Dr. Paul was a brilliant strategist and courageous pioneer in women's history.  She never married and devoted her life to the cause of social justice for women. Studying in England she became involved in the suffrage movement and returned to America as a radical champion for voting rights for women.

Her non-violent activities of campaigning against the party in power, picketing the White House and organizing large-scale parades for publicity landed her in jail three times. Alice went on hunger strikes while in prison where she was brutally tortured and force-fed three meals a day for weeks on end.  Her determination and perseverance to fulfill Susan B. Anthony's legacy brought about the 19th Amendment in 1920.

 Congresswoman and Presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm
(1924 - 2005)

Between 1972 - 1982, more than 450 national and local organizations stood united to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sex. 

Citizens lobbied, petitioned, picketed, fund-raised, rallied and celebrated this exciting nationwide movement towards social justice for women.

In ten years, ERA achieved the support of more than 2/3 of Congress and 35 out of the 38 states it needed.  Equality, Justice and Liberty were coming down the homestretch with just three states left to go.... and June 30, 1982 arrived.
Listen to Ms. Vesta Patrick, a student's recitation of Congresswoman Chisholm's Equal Rights Amendment speech

Despite the 72% majority opinion in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment, Congress stood silent. Refusing to extend or remove an arbitrary deadline for ratification, ERA was thrust into political exile just three states short of victory. 

Should women be required to start all over again with a new Equal Rights Amendment to ratify?  This would require 2/3 of Congress to vote YES and 38 of 50 states.  Or should women demand to finish what was already started and 92% of the way complete?  United 4 Equality urges Congress not to hit the restart button on ERA and erase the efforts of so many.  Instead recommit to ending sex discrimination as part of America's economic recovery effort and global competitiveness.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 - 1902) & Susan B. Anthony (1820 - 1906)

In 1848, in Seneca Falls, NY, at the First Women's Rights Convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton presented the revolutionary Declaration of Sentiments to over 300 gathers affirming that 'All men an
Seneca Falls, 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton
d women are created equal.' Said Stanton at the convention,

Did I not feel that the time has come for the questions of women's wrongs to be laid before the public? Did I not believe that women herself must do this work, for women alone understand the height, the depth, the breadth of her degradation.

Considered far too radical to pursue, the group settled for achieving the legal right for women to vote. Elizabeth's dedication to
women went beyond suffrage to parental and custody rights, property rights, employment and income rights, divorce laws, the economic health of the family,  birth control and temperance.

In 1852, Susan B. Anthony and Ms. Stanton met through a mutual friend and began a 50-year friendship working on women's suffrage. 
Susan B. traveled the United States and Europe, and averaged 75 to 100 speeches per year for over four decades.

In 1872, Ms. Anthony was arrested and fined $100 for the illegal act of voting.  She plead not guilty in this adaptation of her famous  speech; where she asserts that voting is her legal right as a citizen under the Constitution which promises to All the blessings of liberty. 

Susan B. Anthony's arrest proved that the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clausedid not and has not ever applied to women.  Without constitutional equality, it took 72 years for women to change the minds and hearts of men to win the right to vote.

Having been awarded two PhDs in Economics and Law, Alice
viewed suffrage as the means to achieving full legal, political
and social equality with men. In 1921, she wrote the original
Equal Rights Amendment.  It was adopted to the Republican Party platform in 1940.  In 1943, Dr. Paul revised the text to resemble
the 14th and 19th Amendments and it was added to the
Democratic platform in 1944. It would be 50 years before the ERA would finally pass in Congress.

Though women have achieved much progress,it has never been without struggle and sacrifice to prove herself worthy of human rights that are men's from birth.  The Equal Rights Amendment is Alice's legacy for America's future.  United 4 Equality is honored to carryout her vision of a better and more just world.