How Did The Equal Rights Amendment Start?


The Equal Rights Amendment was passed by the U.S. Senate and sent to the states to be ratified 45 years ago. But it failed to be ratified by the necessary three quarters of states by the deadline that Congress imposed of June 30, 1982. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia all failed to ratify the Amendment, and it was not added to the Constitution.

Though the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment continues, it's important to take a step back and look at its roots. It may have been introduced in 1972, but the fight for the Amendment started long before that. And it's shocking to see the amount of resistance, the sheer outrage, and just how freaking long it has taken for the most basic levels of protection and equality for women to become societally acceptable. For the longest time the idea of equal rights for women was completely tied up in the right to vote. It took so long and so much fight to get that basic democratic right— and once it was achieved, a lot of people acted like women shouldn't have the temerity to ask for anything more.

But looking back shows why what we've achieved — and what we have yet to achieve — is so relevant to today.

The Women's Right's Convention

The modern struggle has its roots in the famous Woman's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1848, where abolitionists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott held a two-day meeting of over 300 people demanding justice for women in society and access to areas of life they had been prohibited from. After the Civil War, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth continued the fight for women to be protected in the Constitution when it extended protection to former slaves. But references in the 14th Amendment to "all persons" were offset with specific mentions of "males". Finally, in 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed and women's right to vote was secured— but there was still more work to be done.

Back To Seneca Falls

For the first appearance of the modern Equal Rights Amendment, we have to return to Seneca Falls in 1923 and the 75th anniversary of the Women's Rights Convention. Alice Paul introduced the Lucretia Mott Amendment, hoping to guarantee women's equality. It read: "Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction"

Doesn't sound too controversial, right? Sounds like basic humanity. And yet from 1923 the amendment was reworded and reintroduced in every session of Congress until it was finally passed in 1972. Passed but, as I mentioned above, not ratified by the requisite number of states. The fight for an Equal Rights Amendment is far from over, but the fact that an Amendment asking for equal rights was not ratified by, I don't know, every damn state in the country, even in the 20th century, should be an eye-opener about the state of women's rights.

It's been truly heartening to see the outpouring of passion and demonstration as women's rights are threatened under the current administration. And looking back, it lets us see how our current position is just an extension of historical struggles — and how important it is to keep fighting.