Live-Blogging Women’s History: March 21, 1938

March 21, 1938: Jubilation today among Equal Rights Amendment supporters. After an almost 15-year struggle, the ERA has for the first time been reported to a branch of Congress.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 9 to 9 today–a tie being sufficient–to report Senate Joint Resolution 65 to the full Senate for action. It reads,

Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.

Drafted by Alice Paul, the E.R.A. was first introduced to Congress on December 10, 1923 and sponsored by two Kansas Republicans: Senator Charles Curtis and Representative Daniel Anthony (a nephew of Susan B. Anthony). It has been the subject of hearings since February 6, 1924. Over the years, the National Woman’s Party has eloquently testified in the amendment’s favor, and though standing alone at first, they have now been joined by many other groups. Today, the amendment’s supporters include the National Association of Women Lawyers, the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, and the American Federation of Soroptimists.

Celebrating today’s victory, Sarah Pell, head of the National Woman’s Party, said of the nine Senators who voted the amendment on:

In every crucial period of history, there are those of clear vision who balance the scales in favor of justice and who stand for fundamental principles such as the Equal Rights Amendment.

Emma Guffey Miller, who coordinated the proponents’ testimony at the recent hearings, said:

Of course I am glad that the amendment is now before the Senate. It is the first time the full committee of the Judiciary has acted on it. I realize that reactionary forces and the old prejudice of the Dark Ages against equal rights between men and women are still abroad in the land, and it is significant that there are nine members of the committee who are convinced of its justice.

Senator Edward R. Burke, whose Judiciary Subcommittee had reported the amendment to the full Judiciary Committee last June 23rd, said “I have become even more firmly convinced than I was at the start that this is an essential amendment to the United States Constitution.”

With ominous events such as Germany’s annexation of Austria nine days ago, and our growing need for preparedness in mind, he noted an additional reason to support the ERA: “In view of the troubled condition elsewhere in the world it seems to me that in the United States we should call on all the resources of our country, men and women alike.”

Though it’s clearly a long journey from a Senate Committee report to a two-thirds supermajority of both houses of Congress and ratification by 36 of the 48 States, today’s vote is a major and crucial step toward the goal of making the ERA the 22nd Amendment, and achieving the goal of equality for women set forth at Seneca Falls 90 years ago.

Editors’ Note: Despite another 73 years of feminist lobbying, the ERA has still not become a part of the Constitution–find out why in tomorrow’s installment of “Live-Blogging Women’s History.” Voice your support here:

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Photo of Representative Daniel Anthony from Wikimedia Commons.

Comments

  1. Unfortunate that we didn't get the ERA ratified by the required only 36 states when they constituted 2/3 of the total states. By 1982, 35 had ratified. Now, in 2011, we are still 3 states shy of passing the ERA into the US Constitution. It has so far EIGHTY-EIGHT years to put into writing what we should have gotten hundreds of years ago!

    300 000 members of Florida's Equal Rights Alliance have been mobilizing, organizing and lobbying for our state's ratification for NINE YEARS.. We have countered the arguments that we don't need it, you can go to court and try to win a sex discrimination lawsuit, it would encourage same-sex, abortion, drafting of women, unisex bathrooms and myriads of Special Interests' claims meant to inflame sentiment; it would bring "unintended consequences", and ERA is dead. None are true, but we are salmon swimming upstream and working 18'7 for You for Free to get this passed for your children, theirs, theirs, and theirs. If heard, our ERA bills would PASS.

    Big Business and other special interests don't want ERA passed! Corporate America doesn't want to pay equal wages and doesn't want to be sued for their rampant sex discimination. So, as big funders of legislators' campaigns, Big Business stop legislators in 7 states from ratifying. Remember, we only need 3 states!

    ERA Inc also helps mentor the 6 other states as they file bills. But I and 3 states got tired of working so hard for ERA without moving it much, so we formed United for Equality, an umbrella organization to create a new, unique bill before the US Congress. Our hero, Wisconsin's U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, liked our idea of a bill to eliminate the time limit mentioned in the introductory clause proposing the original ERA. Removal of that clause's time limit by passing our ERA bill would allow us to work unhampered to achieve just 3 more states and to pass the ERA into the US Constitution more quickly. Identically worded other ERA bills before Congress both are based on starting all over again to achieve Congress' vote to pass ERA out to the states for a full 38 yet to ratify. That process has now taken 90 years with no end in sight. While we support it and its Sponsors completely, we view our bill as probably passing quicker and thus speeding up passage into the US Constitution.

    Have some fun: you are invited to tour http://www.2PassERA.org to see how we've done what we've done, see an interesting map of the ratified and unraitifed United States, view a survey showing 88% of the public in favor of ERA, plus details of how the ERA benefits men as well as women, the economy, and other segments of the population. You will probably note that ERA is a more complex issue than suppposed, and that the opposition is FIERCE AND STRONG AND WELL-FUNDED.

    But, we WILL do this. Absolutely. No way will every nation since WWII have ERA language and not the USA!
    No way will any mention of the female half of the population remain unnamed in the contract between our nation and its male citizens! We all know if not named, a party has no guaranteed rights therein.

    It means females would have to continue to rely on the good will of male officials and their supporters, mostly fearful of change–good or bad. Do you want your children, grandchilden, greatgrandchildren to be treated as second-class citizens in the future? Or do you want them raised with awareness that they are entitled and do possess full rights to self-determination and personhood? Want to help ERA?…
    Write me, sandyo@PassERA.org for ways anyone can help: no cost, 2-3 minutes, little energy!!!
    See us at 2PassERA.org

    • Thanks for reminding people that though the E.R.A. has a long history, it isn't "history" and is still a viable goal with many people working toward it today. Though it should have been among the first group of amendments submitted by Congress to the states on September 25, 1789, and ratified soon thereafter, better late than never ……..

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