Reflection on Equal Rights Amendment: Argumentative Essay

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Equal Rights Amendment

For new female voters or future female voters, it is important to understand how voting rights and equal rights for women have progressed. At the age of 27, “In 1912 [Alice Paul] promptly joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association” (Baron, 1995). Suffrage means the right to vote; therefore, the NAWSA was formed to gain voting rights for women. After several years of fighting, women’s voting rights were ratified and became the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919. Although this was a huge step for women, Alice Paul wanted and proposed an additional constitutional amendment that would guarantee equal rights for both men and women, called the “Equal Rights Amendment” (Baron, 1995; Law, 2019). It was in 1943 that Alice Paul changed this to the currently worded version that states, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex” (Kyvig, 1996). This means that men and women would be equal and have equal rights under all laws. However, there was a lack of progression in ratifying this Amendment, so it was pushed back until the 1970’s when the women’s movement was established (Equal Rights Amendment Overview, 2019). Finally, “Congress passed this in 1972 with a stipulation that 38 states ratify or pass this within seven years. During the first year, 30 states ratified this and another five states in the next four years.” (Kyvig, 1996). Image 1 attached, from Jocelyn Elise Crowley. (2006) illustrates the state’s support of ERA. Ratification of the ERA is important for Americans because it would provide legal protection against sex in employment, fair and equal pay, the right to choose abortion, reproductive freedom, child care expenses tax deduction, among other things (Law, 2019). Nonetheless, there were many opponents of the ratification of the ERA from both men and women. Despite the importance of the ERA and that it had a lot of support for change, its downfall was because it took too long to ratify which had allowed the opposition amble time to cast doubt.

Surprisingly, much of the opposition to ratifying this act came from women. From the 1920s to the1970s, most female Americans believed their duty was to take care of the house, and their family. Although women gained the right to vote, “They were less likely to vote than men and, if they did vote, women tended to follow the preferences of their fathers or husbands” (Noble, 2012). The older women at this time did not want to change the status quo, so they stuck with the tradition of following the lead of their husbands or men in their lives. Women also began to argue “that the ERA offered no new protections to women, that it would adversely affect protective labor legislation, and that it would impinge upon privacy in schools, restrooms, dormitories and prisons” (Noble, 2012). Women who enjoyed staying in the home feared that they would be forced to work as much as men at the time, and they would lose their protection in public areas. Despite the new wave of feminism and the Women’s Liberation movement, which advocated for women’s rights in the 1960s and 1970s, there were still many opposers to this. Image 2 attached from Gao, T., & Gurd, B. (2019) illustrates the small percentage of women that were for the ERA. The most vocal female opposer was Phyllis Schlafly, who challenged the ERA and placed doubt in the minds of many others. Schlafly created the “pressure group, 'Stop ERA', that managed to” gain support in order to oppose the ERA (Allitt, 2016). This group prevented states from ratifying the ERA and convinced some states to take back their ratifications. This opposition stalled the progress. Forty-seven years after Congress approved this, we are still fighting to make it a law. Even though Phyllis is no longer with us, her descendants still fight for her cause, thus creating a long-term setback for supporters of the ERA (Why We’re Still Fighting Over the Equal Rights Amendment in 2019, 2019). Not all opposers were women; there were plenty of men that did not feel we needed this Amendment.

Although some men supported this, such as President Carter who wrote to the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of the ERA requesting an extension of the deadline, President Richard Nixon who was one of the biggest supporters, and some Congressmen in the mid-1970s and 1980s, many other men that opposed it (Equal Rights Amendment Letter to Members of the House Judiciary Committee; Noble, 2012, p.4). In particular, “Representative Emanuel Celler of New York had blocked consideration of the Amendment in the Judiciary Committee” and “his strong connections” allowed him to influence others to take his position (Equal Rights Amendment Overview, 2019). This Amendment was introduced many times in the House and the Senate; however, many of these men in power continued to block the ERA from being ratified. These men believed that the “Fourteenth Amendment” guarantees rights to and “defined citizens as 'all persons born or naturalized in the United States', already gave women sufficient guarantee of equal protection under the law” (Noble, 2012). In addition, “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, passed in 1964, outlawed discrimination in employment on the grounds of race, colour, religion, national origin and sex” (Noble, 2012). This then added to the rights provided by the Fourteenth Amendment, making many of these men confused as to why women would need more rights if they already had many. They believed that these would be enough for women and that the ERA would be redundant. The “courts had begun to take the lead by interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment and other existing legislation as bulwarks against gender discrimination” (Noble, 2012). People who were once supporters of the ERA began to align with those who thought that the current laws were enough to protect women, so they stopped fighting for the ERA. Creating these other laws was a significant step for women, but the mentality that we already have enough laws and that the country does not need more, hurt the ERA moving forward. Supporters persisted and reminded voters that even amid these protections, there were still discriminatory actions taking place, and passing the ERA would require courts to add gender discrimination to the list of “classifications protected by the highest” court (Colohan, K. E., Niles, K. J., & S, J. 2018). Although the time limit has passed, it is still worth the fight for this right today.

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Today, with the Women’s Marches, the #MeToo movement, and current celebrities like Alyssa Milano, America Ferrara, and Patricia Arquette, bringing to light Women’s rights issues, the ERA has gained new momentum in recent years (Why We’re Still Fighting Over the Equal Rights Amendment in 2019). As of May 2018, thirty-seven states have now passed this bill. Supporters believe that we need just one more state to have the ERA become a Federal Amendment finally. However, the opposition believes that five of these states have rescinded their vote and that the deadline Congress imposed has long passed; therefore, this is a moot point. New opposition has also come to light in the past decade; the “Anti-abortion groups have swung into high gear against the Amendment” (Why We’re Still Fighting Over the Equal Rights Amendment in 2019, p.2). These groups believe that passing the ERA will contribute to a higher rate of abortions. Organizers of the “National Right to Life Committee” as well as descendants of Phyllis Schlafly are campaigning that the ERA is Anti-Woman (Why We’re Still Fighting Over the Equal Rights Amendment in 2019). They have convinced voters that despite current state laws regarding abortion, the ERA would supersede that and allow women the right to choose. The Pro-Life supporters have thus swayed the vote against ERA. This hot issue has created more doubt in those that were once for the ratification, but this video, “Forty Years Later the ERA is still not a part of the Constitution,” https://youtu.be/lghqP2Dz0dc shows why we are still fighting today why we will not give up despite the opposition faced.

Conclusion

The Equal Rights Amendment is important to me personally because, as a woman in the business world with two daughters that are about to enter the “real world” and my audience of young women soon to be voting or entering the workforce, having a law that protects our rights from discrimination is beneficial. We have come a long way from where we once were, but the fact that women are not seen as equal to men in the Constitution is just wrong. For this reason, I chose this research topic. I have learned a lot about the ERA after reading through more than 30 articles and other internet searches. Thinking like a historian, researching this topic, and searching for evidence has changed the way I was looking at this. To me, the ERA is personal, so I was initially thinking in the social lens, how this has affected other women I know or me. Nevertheless, most of my research has led me to believe this should be thought of in the political lens. “The supporters knew, a little too late, that their opponents could always use the political system to delay the process of ratification until the deadline passed. They could stall committee actions by filing postponements and delaying votes.” Kyvig, D 1996).

If today’s historian would continue researching my thesis statement, they will need to look at current events as well as laws. Besides the most vocal groups, anti-abortion activists, they would need to research to find out of there are any other groups that may be opposing the ERA passing. This historian would also need to research laws regarding states rescinding on their votes; if this is allowed, then we need six more states to pass this. If this is not allowed, then we are just one state short of ratification.

References

  1. Allitt, P. (2016). Death of an anti-feminist: The extraordinary Phyllis Schlafly, who in the 1970s organised the opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. Spectator, (9811), 18. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsglr&AN=edsgcl.462893543&site=eds-live&scope=site
  2. Baron, R. C., Scinta, S., & Staten, P. (1995). Alice Paul. Millennium 2000 -- 20th Century America: 100 Influential People, 93–94. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=18477422&site=eds-live&scope=site
  3. Bolce, Louis, DE Maio, Gerald, & Muzzio, Douglas. (1987). The Equal Rights Amendment, Public Opinion, & American Constitutionalism. Polity, 19(4), 551. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.2307/3234703
  4. Colohan, K. E., Niles, K. J., & S, J. (2018). The Equal Rights Amendment. Alice Paul Institute. Retrieved from https://www.equalrightsamendment.org/
  5. Commission on Civil Rights, Washington. D.C. (1981). The Equal Rights Amendment: Guaranteeing Equal Rights for Women Under the Constitution. Clearinghouse Publication 68. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED210372&site=eds-live&scope=site
  6. Equal Rights Amendment Letter to Members of the House Judiciary Committee. July 12, 1978. (2001). American Reference Library - Primary Source Documents, 1. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost- com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=khh&AN=32365439&site=eds- live&scope=site
  7. Equal Rights Amendment Overview; Origins and Subsequent Actions in Congress and the States. (2019). Congressional Digest, (3), 5. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsggo&AN=edsgcl.580197280&site=eds-live&scope=site
  8. “Forty years later, the ERA is still not a part of the Constitution”. Jan 29, 2019, YouTube https://youtu.be/lghqP2Dz0dc
  9. Gao, T., & Gurd, B. (2019). Hospital size. Chart. BMC Health Services Research, 19(1), 6. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1186/s12913-019-3907-6
  10. Jocelyn Elise Crowley. (2006). Moving Beyond Tokenism: Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and the Election of Women to State Legislatures. Social Science Quarterly, 87(3), 519. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.42956139&site=eds-live&scope=site
  11. Kyvig, David E. (1996). Historical Misunderstandings and the Defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment. The Public Historian, 18(1), 45. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.2307/3377881
  12. Law, T. (2019). The U.S. Constitution Doesn’t Guarantee Equal Rights for Women. Here’s Why. Time.Com, N.PAG. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bsu&AN=138342666&site=eds-live&scope=site
  13. Noble, G. (2012). The Rise and Fall of the Equal Rights Amendment. History Review, (72), 30. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=73166289&site=eds-live&scope=site
  14. Why We’re Still Fighting Over the Equal Rights Amendment in 2019; (2019). Miller- McCune.Com. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.snhu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsggo&AN=edsgcl.593897247&site=eds-live&scope=site
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Reflection on Equal Rights Amendment: Argumentative Essay. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/reflection-on-equal-rights-amendment-argumentative-essay/
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