1940 July 13

Equal Rights Amendment Divides Women at Democratic Party Convention


The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a constitutional amendment that would guarantee equality for women, divided women preparing for the 1940 Democratic Party Convention. The Women’s Advisory Committee of Eighteen, after long debate, proposed a 15-point program that did not include the ERA.

Delegates to the convention who argued for the ERA included Mrs. Emma Guffey Miller of Pennsylvania. Arguing against the ERA was Mrs. Louis Leonard Wright, of Chicago, representing the League of Women Voters. Opposition to the ERA focused primarily on the possibility that it would wipe out protective legislation for working women.

The Women’s Advisory Committee adopted a plank that affirmed support efforts to achieve equality for men and women, without impairing the social legislation” safeguards the health of women workers.

The ERA had been drafted by Alice Paul, one of the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement, and introduced at Seneca Falls, New York, on July 21, 1923. The ERA was introduced in virtually every session of Congress from 1923 until the late 1960s, but was never passed and sent to the states for ratification. It was finally passed Congress and was sent to the states on March 22, 1972. It was quickly ratified by almost two-thirds of the states, but a conservative backlash set in and it has never been ratified.

Learn about Alice Paul: Jill Zahniser and Amelia Fry, Alice Paul: Claiming Power (2014)


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