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Carolyn's ERA Story

It was hip to be a girl in the 1970s. We were surrounded by images of strong, independent, single women. On TV, Wonder Woman’s magic lasso compelled the bad guys to tell the truth. The Bionic Woman deciphered top-secret conversations in high-risk assignments. Mary Tyler Moore lived happily without Mr. Right. And One Day At A Time featured a single mom raising her two daughters alone

Our home reflected these changing times… my mother raised my sister and I alone and worked for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church. She found herself in the pages of the Feminine Mystique which would help her to weather the storms of divorce and then leave the Church when she realized women priests weren’t happening.

My mother never remarried. Instead, she demonstrated that men’s and women’s roles were interchangeable. She learned basic home maintenance, managed her meager finances with precision and maintained our beautiful yard until we could. She's 91 now! Mom embraced feminism and her newfound independence; forging strong female friendships that helped her self-publish her book of philosophical verse, Destiny Charted. I never doubted that women were superior leaders because of my Mom's example. 

On the flipside, growing up without a father in the house did not prepare me for the bullying I would encounter in elementary school.  Suddenly, being a girl wasn't cool. It meant I was the OTHER.  “I was too tall for a girl. I ran too fast for a girl. I was too pale...”. They made fun of my red hair and my last name to the tune of Jingle Bells. 

I was so upset that I begged my parents to let me transfer to an all-girls school after 5th grade which they allowed.  I remained there for four years before transferring back to a co-ed high school.  I cherish those years for the comfort I felt in my own skin, at school, to express myself. 

One morning at breakfast, during my parent’s divorce, around 1978, Mom confided in me that “Women will never be safe until we have the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution.” She understood firsthand how women’s homemaker roles fell short of parity in Court.  My reaction was “What's the Constitution and what do you mean women aren’t safe?”

Little did she or I know of the seed she had planted that day... that would blossom some 30 years later in 2008 when I became unemployed and volunteered to elect the 1st woman president of the United States – Hillary Rodham Clinton.  

My former job managed work/family initiatives at the Discovery Channel where single and married mothers were trying to effectively manage a career and family. It occurred to me then that our company could do all the right things for employees, receive repeated recognition as an industry leader and yet have no control over changing the way we do business in America to accommodate the roles of caregivers at work.  

When a bipartisan Congress had obstructed the Equal Rights Amendment, business became stakeholders in the work/family movement.  Their goal: Figure out how to keep working women employed as they enhanced productivity, improved the bottom line and were top consumers of household goods and services. Women were an invaluable asset in the labor force.

But I was not to continue down this path. Laid off along with some 3,000 employees, I volunteered on the Clinton campaign. I reasoned that a national work/life agenda would be within reach under a president who happened to be a working woman, mother and grandmother. While my job prospect didn’t pan out to work in the Clinton White House, something more profound had shifted into place. It was as if my soul had found its calling and that calling was feminist advocacy and public service. 

I was emboldened by the misogyny and double standard Hillary had endured.  AND I had to find a job. Suddenly it dawned on me that in 2008, that the bullying boys I had run away from as a girl became the bullying men afraid of Hillary as president. The cycle of misogyny never ended.  Only this time – I wouldn’t cut and run and ignore the painful lessons I had learned. Finding a good job was a cop out. I needed to process my hurt and anger through constructive action that respected and celebrated women contributors. The only logical path was ensuring that our country's values matched our public policies when it came to women and girls via resurrecting and finishing the Equal Rights Amendment.

Grasping the legacy of our Foremothers from centuries ago and heeding my mother's advice from the 1970s has been a honor. Their work became mine in the form of petitioning Congress to eliminate their deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. I also ran for public office. Serving my community of 14,000, I advocated for seniors, disabled drivers and the homeless; testified on various bills and policies and championed infrastructure improvements as Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for eight years. 

Today, Mom and I are united for equality and our initiative is known as HJR17 and SJR 1. Since our bill's debut in 2011 (US House) and 2012 (US Senate), Nevada ratified the ERA in 2017, Illinois in 2018 and Virginia became #38 in 2020. But Americans cannot ignore or erase Congress's deadline - however unprecedented it is... We must work to eliminate it now - together.

Women have one, specific ask of power. Constitutional equality of men and women.

We're often wished luck on passing our ERA bill in Congress.  But like all things political – issues become priorities based on demand. Change requires collective voices. Our federal bill has successfully opened the door and made our wishes known. Now it’s high time for us to recommit to the task at hand. Our goal is ERA by 2023 to honor and celebrate the ERA's centennial and the legacy we will leave for the generations to come.  Will you join us?