Constitution Day—Time for ERA!

Constitution Day—Time for ERA!
On September 17, 1787, members of the Constitutional Convention signed the final draft of the Constitution. (Creative Commons)

On September 17, 1787 in Philadelphia, the men who founded our country signed the document that would form the basis of our law: the U.S. Constitution. If you look at any artistic rendering of that day, you will notice that many groups of people are conspicuously absent. There were no Black people, there were no indigenous people, and there were no women of any race present that day.

But, we can change that. Thanks to Article 5, we, the people, have the power to amend our nation’s founding document—to create that more perfect union. And in the 230 years since it was first signed, we’ve worked toward just that, with ratification of 27 amendments. But, one group is still not fully protected: women. 

After ratifying the 19th Amendment, suffragist Alice Paul, an ancestor of my late husband, went to work immediately on another amendment, one she saw as the logical next step after suffrage—the Equal Rights Amendment. It was first introduced in Congress in 1923 and over the last century, we have been fighting to spell out equality for women.

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Congress established Constitution Day in 2004 as an official holiday and mandated that all public schools and federal agencies educate Americans on our most foundational document. On Constitution Day we should study and celebrate women as Constitution makers.

In her new book “We the Women,” Professor Julie Suk said that when the ERA is added to the Constitution, it will be the only part of the Constitution

“written by women after suffrage, adopted by women leading the way in Congress, given meaning by women lawyers and judges, and ratified by women lawmakers in state legislatures in the twenty-first century.”

We are so close! This past January, the 38th and final state needed—Virginia—ratified the ERA, and in February, the House voted to eliminate the old deadline that was attached to the amendment. We are on the brink of making constitutional history. The Senate should follow suit to make it clear that there is no deadline on equality.

Now, with more women than ever in Congress and public outcry from across our country for equal pay for equal work, for an end to sexual harassment and assault, and heightened awareness of sex discrimination in practically every sector of society, we must talk about and ensure constitutional equality.

With the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, we learned we can’t always control who is on the Supreme Court—however, we can change the document he’s charged with interpreting. We need to cement our rights in the Constitution so we are protected no matter who is in the White House, in control of Congress or on the Supreme Court.

Let’s paint a broader picture of who can make constitutional law than the one from Philadelphia in 1787. Let’s continue down the path toward a more perfect union. This Constitution Day,  let’s spell out equality: E-R-A.


Rep. Carolyn Maloney is the first woman to represent New York’s 12th Congressional District and to represent New York City’s 7th Councilmanic district, where she was the first woman to give birth while in office; she was also the first woman to Chair the Joint Economic Committee and is now the first woman to chair the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. She is also senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee and the former co-chair of the Women's Caucus. Rep. Maloney is the author of Rumors of our Progress Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Why Women’s Lives Aren’t Getting any Easier and How We Can Make Real Progress for Ourselves and Our Daughters.