Pioneers Along the Journey to Women's Equality
First Lady Abigail Adams (1744 -1818)
As the political concepts of democracy and emancipation were taking shape in the new republic, Abigail Adams seized on the opportunity to retain and expand women's newfound freedom in the colonies through greater public participation in the society. In a letter to John Adams on March 31, she made her case:I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.
That your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of master for the more tender and endearing one of friend. Why, then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity? Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your sex; regard us then as being placed by Providence under your protection, and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 - 1902)
These two leading suffragists shared a 50-year friendship beginning three years after Ms. Stanton presented the Declaration of Sentiments resolution at the First Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was married with seven children, a writer and thinker who advocated for in divorce reform, birth control and married women property rights. She authored the controversial Women's Bible and she delivered her best speech to Congress in 1892 known as "The Solitude of Self."
Susan B. Anthony (1820 - 1906)
Susan B. Anthony was a maverick spinster with organizational and tactical talents. She gave suffrage speeches all across the country and in every session of Congress between 1869 - 1906. Susan was arrested in 1872 for the "illegal act of voting" and fined $100 which she never paid. Her fiery trial remarks can be heard here.
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain't I A Woman?
Isabella Baumfree was born into slavery and suffered 30 years of untold abuses. When her master did not honor his promise to free her, she ran away. She became a preacher and changed her name to Sojourner Truth. She delivered one of the most famous abolition and women's rights speeches below.
Women's Rights Convention, Akron, Ohio (1851)
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have plowed and planted and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint and your's holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.
Dr. Alice Paul, Author of the Equal Rights Amendment (1885 - 1977)
The ERA debuted in Congress in 1923 authored by Dr. AlicePaul, a Republican who held dual doctoral degrees in Civil Law and Economics. The Republican Party was the first to add the ERA to their national party platform in 1940 where it remained for 40 years. The Democrats included ERA in their party's platform in 1944 where it remained until 2004 and was added again in 2008. Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Bush Sr all supported the ERA. The Equal Rights Amendment was reintroduced for 49 years until it was finally ratified in 1972. However, its passage was doomed for failure on account of a ten-year deadline imposed by Congress for ratification by 38 states.*Only the 18th, 20th - 22nd Amendments had time limits contained in the Amendment itself. The 23rd - 26th Amendments had time limits outside of the actual Amendment as was the case with ERA. The last 27th Amendment was ratified after 203 years!
Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (NY) ERA Champion (1924 - 2005)
In 1969, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm delivered a famous speech for the ERA where she discusses how discrimination against women had far-reaching consequences for all people.
First Lady Betty Ford's Remarks to International Women's Year Conference
Cleveland, Ohio, October 25, 1975
Thank you for inviting me. I am here because I believe the best way to celebrate International Women's Year is to examine the very real problems women face today, not the progress of yesterday. While many new opportunities are open to women, too many are available only to the lucky few. Many barriers continue to the paths of most women, even on the most basic issue of equal pay for equal work. And the contributions of women as wives and mothers continue to be underrated. >>Read more
U.S Commission on Civil Rights 1981 Report
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released testified before Congress to extend ERA's deadline in 1978 and published an official report in 1981 in support of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment before the deadline. Despite a 72% majority of Americans and the approval of 35 states, Congress did not extend or eliminate the deadline. ERA was thrust into a congressionally-imposed political exile for 30 years.
ERA Summit Commissions Exciting 1994 Legal Analysis In 1992, the 27th "Madison Amendment" was ratified after 203 years! ERA advocates wondered what implications it may have for the ERA's "expiration". In 1994, a grassroots group known as the ERA Summit led by Flora Crater of VA (mother of the ERA's lobbying force aka "Crater's Raidors" pictured above) commissioned a legal analysis at the University of Richmond that gave rise to the 3-state strategy for the ERA. Several states re-introduced the federal ERA determined to become the #36, 37 or 38 state needed.
ERA Campaign Network Commissions 2001 Survey
In 2001, the ERA Campaign Network led by Dr. Jennifer S. McLeod, a social psychologist, convened a 22-state roundtable for the ERA and commissioned a nationwide survey conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation to reveal how Americans viewed equal rights for men and women. Click here to read the exciting findings of the survey.
United 4 Equality, LLC Sets Out to Revive 1972 ERA
In 2009, Carolyn A. Cook, the DC Coordinator for the ERA Campaign Network, on behalf of six states seeking to ratify the federal ERA, drafted a joint resolution to Congress urging action to remove Congress's time limit for ratifying the ERA.
Joined by ERA Campaign Network members, Camille Moran (Louisiana), Jean Landweber (Wisconsin) Laura Callow (Michigan), Carolyn Cook (DC) began lobbying for their bill's introduction. In 2010, United for Equality, LLC, was established to officially represent the efforts of several unratified states seeking to finish the 1972 ERA.
ERA's Revival - 112th Congress (2011 - 2012)
On March 8, 2011, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (WI) introduced H.J. Resolution 47: Removing the Deadline for Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment on behalf of United 4 Equality. Marking the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day, our bill served as a reminder that the U.S. cannot end the human rights abuses of females abroad while continuing to deny us constitutional equality at home. With seven original cosponsors, we launched our campaign and ended the session with 56!
On March 22, 2012, marking the 40th anniversary of when ERA was ratified by Congress and sent out to the states, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the companion bill S.J. Res. 39. It was a historical moment for everyone in attendance because the U.S. Senate had never before recognized any alternative path for the ERA than starting all over again! With eight original cosponsors in an election year, we ended with 17!Incidentally, in 1972, Delegate Ben Cardin to the MD General Assembly voted yes to approve the Equal Rights Amendment just two days after Congress proposed it to the 3/4 of the states for ratification on March 24, 1972.
113th Congress (2013 - 2014)
In 2013, Congressman Robert Andrews (D-NJ) took over the House ERA bill when Rep. Tammy Baldwin was elected to the Senate. House Joint Resolution 43 (HJR 43) had 31 original cosponsors and rose to 105 within one year.
On May 9, 2013 - Senator Ben Cardin joined by his colleague, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced U4E's bipartisan joint resolution to remove Congress's time limit for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to coincide with Mother’s Day celebrations across the country. Senate Joint Resolution 15 (SJR 15) had 19 original cosponsors and ended the session with 35.
On March 27, 2014, United 4 Equality approached Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) to take over our ERA bill in the House. She introduced HJR 113 (to replace HJR 43) with 109 original cosponsors and ended the session with 147.
114th Congress (2015 -2016)
On May 9, 2015, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) reintroduced SJR 15 with 26 co-sponsors and ended with 30 co-sponsors. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) reintroduced HJR 51 with 143 co-sponsors and ended with 164.
115 Congress (2017 - 2018)
On January 17, Senator Ben Cardin reintroduced SJR 5 with 20 original cosponsors. Senator Kirk lost his re-election bid. Congresswoman Jackie Speier reintroduced HJR 53 with 132 on February 8, 2017, with 134 original cosponsors.