Abigail Adams 1744 - 1818In 1776, while 56, white, wealthy, land-owning males were preparing to declare their independence from Britain's King, Abigail Adams urged her husband, John, to equate the legal status of women alongside of men in the New World. When he refused to oblige her request, she replied,
"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."
Women were the property of white men. She could not vote. Her education and occupations were limited. If she worked, her wages belonged to her husband to spend as he wished. She did not own possessions nor the land upon which she lived. She could not attend college, lead meetings or speak out in public. Marital rape and domestic violence were legal. She could never divorce her husband even if he was abusive, a drunkard or became penniless. If he divorced her, she was left with the clothes on her back and became homeless. Though a women's place was in the home tending to children and domestic affairs, her husband automatically got custody of her children.
History of ERA
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was written in 1921 by
Dr. Alice Paul, a suffrage leader, a Republican and dual Doctor of Civil Law and Economics. The bill was introduced in 1923 by Susan B. Anthony's nephew and every session of Congress for nearly 50 years before it passed. A group of 20 women from Pittsburgh (NOW - National Organization for Women) stood up in protest during a Senate hearing. Their act of civil disobedience ultimately raised its profile to finally pass the House and Senate by more than the required 2/3 majority.
When Congress passed the ERA in 1972, it insisted that the measure had to be ratified by the necessary number of states (38) within 7 years. This deadline was later extended to 10 years, and between 1972 and 1982, 35 states voted to end discrimination on the basis of sex. Yet, on June 30, 1982, Congress refused to extend its deadline and the ERA ‘expired’, just three states short of full ratification under the US Constitution. A new constitutional amendment bearing the same text with no deadline has been introduced in every session of Congress since. It has never received a hearing.
In 1992, the 27 "Madison Amendment" regarding Congressional pay raises was ratified after 203 years. Though it had no deadline for ratification, the ERA Summit subsequently commissioned a legal analysis by the TC Williams Law School, Richmond VA, that concluded this legislative action could have significant implications for the ERA remaining alive before the states post 1982 for ratification in the final three needed. The three-state strategy has been introduced since 1994. Continued ratification efforts resumed in un-ratified states such as Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois and as recently as 2009. Unfortunately, mainstream media has largely ignored this news story and resolutions have been defeated behind closed doors.
The US Constitution in granting full citizenship to white males only, subjected all other human beings to a perpetual struggle for parity. Fortunately, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments ended slavery and extended citizenship and suffrage to all males regardless of race, but again refused to acknowledge women as citizens.
Today, after 222 years, institutions (education, business, government and military); public policies; laws and programs established without women's participation and consent, continue to limit their freedom as human beings. Justice Antonin Scalia stated in the California Lawyer in January 2011, "Certainly the Constitution doesn't require sex discrimination. The only question is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't." The only right that cannot be restricted on account of being female is the right to vote under the 19th Amendment. Women's suffrage was not won without the sacrifice and struggle of many who overcame torture, ridicule and loneliness to change the course of history.
Bound by custom and precedent, the U.S. government requires that women become equal citizens of our democracy by constitutional amendment or convention. The Equal Rights Amendment is essential for establishing a new benchmark for lawmakers and the courts to uphold while providing the social remedy for transforming collective consciousness towards shared prosperity for All.
PROBLEMExcluding or restricting one sex for the benefit of the other is allowed under the U. S. Constitution.
CHALLENGEFederal and state laws cannot protect the rights of women who are not full citizens under law.
SOLUTIONThe Equal Rights Amendment would extend the same protection for women as is applied to race, religion and national origin.
In 27 amendments to the Constitution, the US government established freedom of speech and religion (1st), right to bear arms (2nd) due process (5th), an end to slavery (13th), guaranteed full citizenship (14th) and suffrage regardless of race (15th) and women’s suffrage (19th). Steadily, our collective consciousness evolved from committing horrific human rights violations to electing the first Catholic (Kennedy) and African American (Obama) male presidents. Stunning triumphs, and yet our moral compass cannot ignore the double standard that remains – what about Women who pay taxes yet are not equally represented? What about our military service woman who protect and defend our constitution that does not protect and defend them?
Without a federal blanket of protection across all 50 states, laws for women are arbitrarily and inconsistently applied. Courts lack a clear benchmark for ruling on sex
discrimination cases, so outcomes vary. Legislation that can take years to pass can be reversed overnight by a single vote or denied necessary appropriations.
The omission of women from the U.S. Constitution has had far-reaching consequences for far too long.
For information on Dr. Alice Paul and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm who championed the cause of the Equal Rights Amendment, click here.