1929 October 2

Liberal Catholic Priest Opposes Equal Rights Amendment for Women


Rev. John A. Ryan, a prominent Catholic priest who supported many liberal causes, on this day opposed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), an amendment to the Constitution that would guarantee equality to women. Along with most liberal feminists and labor union officials at that time, Rev. Ryan feared that an ERA would wipe out special protective legislation for women workers. Rev. Ryan argued in favor of protective legislation because such laws were supported by “experience and the facts of human nature.”

Rev. Ryan was active on a number of liberal social policies and worked with the ACLU on several issues.

Alice Paul drafted and introduced the ERA on July 21, 1923. Congress finally approved and sent the ERA to the states for ratification in 1970 (see July 11, 1970). Many states quickly ratified the ERA, but a conservative backlash set in and the ERA was never ratified (see January 18, 1977).

Read: Frederick L. Broderick, The Right Reverend New Dealer, John A. Ryan (1963)

Read: Mary Frances Berry, Why ERA Failed: Politics, Women’s Rights, and the Amending Process of the Constitution (1986)

Learn more from an ERA timeline: http://www.now.org/issues/economic/cea/history.html

Learn more about Alice Paul: Christine A. Lunardini, From Equal Suffrage to Equal Rights: Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party, 1910–1928 (1986)

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