1972 March 22

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Goes to the States for Ratification


The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution, which would guarantee equality for women, was sent to the states for ratification on this day. Although the ERA had been introduced in virtually every Congress since it was first drafted by Alice Paul on July 21, 1923, it had never gained the necessary two-thirds vote in Congress to be sent to the states for ratification. Because of the rise of the women’s movement in the mid-1960s, the political climate regarding women’s rights changed dramatically. Representative Martha Griffiths (D–Michigan) finally managed to get the ERA before Congress for debate on June 11, 1970.

Prospects for ratification of the ERA seemed very promising at this point. Because of a well-organized conservative opposition campaign, however, the political climate dramatically changed again, and the ERA was never approved. The text of the ERA had changed since its original 1923 version. See the 1970 version below.

The 1970s ERA Amendment:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

Read: Mary Frances Berry, Why ERA Failed: Politics, Women’s Rights, and the Amending Process of the Constitution (1988)

Learn about Alice Paul, author of the ERA in 1923: Jill Zahniser and Amelia Fry, Alice Paul: Claiming Power (2014)

Read the history of the ERA: http://www.equalrightsamendment.org/

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