This March, for Women’s History Month, the Ms. Blog is profiling Wonder Women who have made history—and those who are making history right now. Join us each day as we bring you the stories of iconic and soon-to-be-famous feminist change-makers.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has championed women’s rights since the start of her congressional career in 1992. As a politician, she’s achieved a series of firsts—the first woman to represent New York’s 14th Congressional District, the first woman to represent New York City’s 7th Council District and the first woman to act as Chair of the Joint Economic Committee.
Maloney has consistently utilized her Congressional influence to push for legislation on feminist issues, such as sexual assault, childcare and economic equality. Her persistent advocacy for full ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is one of her most notable pursuits for women’s rights.
The ERA demands that full equal rights under the law be afforded to everyone, regardless of sex. This would hopefully eradicate discrimination on the basis of sex in the legal system, and ensure equal distribution of federal resources to both women and men. The Amendment was initially drafted in 1923—just after women won the right to vote—by Alice Paul, a suffragist who founded the National Women’s Party. After half a century of floating through Congressional hearings unaddressed, the Amendment received approval from both legislative chambers in 1972. But when it was presented to the states for ratification, the final tally fell three states short of the requirement for inclusion in the Constitution.
In 2013, Maloney reintroduced the Amendment to the 113th Congress. She had previously introduced nine different variations of the bill to Congress beginning in 1997.
Maloney’s fight for the ERA is just the latest in a long line of efforts she’s made to advance women’s rights during her last three decades in office. During her tenure as co-chair of the House Caucus on Women’s issues, she oversaw the passage of the Debbie Smith Act, which allocates government funding to eliminate the country’s backlog of rape kits. The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) called the bill “the most important anti-rape legislation ever considered by Congress.” She similarly attacked childcare issues with her introduction of the 2012 Childcare Affordability Act, which aimed to increase women’s access to childcare.
Whatever she’s doing in Congress, women are always front and center for Maloney. Before walking out of a 2012 House oversight committee meeting on contraception, Maloney observed the witness panel was comprised predominantly of male professionals or religious leaders and famously asked, “But where are the women?” Ironically, Maloney has addressed that question herself during her career. She has not only filled the void of women in a multitude of male-dominated political spaces, but acted as one of the loudest political voices in support of women’s issues in the current age. We commend her for every critical step she’s taken.
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Image of Carolyn Maloney by Freedom to Marry under license from Creative Commons 2.0.