Coming to Broadway: ‘Suffs’ Explores the Struggle for Women’s Equality—One That’s Far From Over

We at Ms. magazine are counting the days until Suffs arrives on Broadway, following its sold-out, extended run at New York City’s Public Theater.

The show opens in 1913 as the women’s movement is heating up in the United States. Anchored by a cadre of suffragists—“Suffs,” as they call themselves—they are in relentless, creative pursuit of the right to vote. Reaching across and against generational, racial and class divides, these brilliant, flawed women manage to entertain and inspire.

(This essay is part of “The ERA Is Essential to Democracy” Women & Democracy collection.)

The Future of Gender Justice, Now: An Intergenerational Framework for the ERA

The Dobbs decision marked the first time in U.S. history millions of Americans lost a fundamental right. We understand the overturning of Roe v. Wade as just the beginning. Nearly half the states in the country have severely restricted or banned abortions. Escalating legislative attacks on bodily autonomy, against the LGBTQ+ community in particular, put young people in harm’s way and put schools and libraries on the frontlines. 

As young advocates in the movement for gender justice, we believe these mounting attacks demand that we imagine new paradigms for envisioning justice and intergenerational equity. The successes of other movements may provide inspiration for revolutionizing our own.

(This essay is part of “The ERA Is Essential to Democracy” Women & Democracy collection.)

State ERAs Can Protect Reproductive Rights Post-Dobbs

Pennsylvania’s highest court held in January that the state’s statutory ban on Medicaid coverage for abortion is sex discrimination under the state’s Equal Rights Amendment—the first time a state supreme court has ruled on how state ERAs impact reproductive rights since Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization dismantled the federal constitutional right to abortion.

This decision proves that reproductive rights have a future post-Dobbs—one firmly rooted in state-level ERAs and their untapped potential to protect and advance reproductive rights.

(This essay is part of “The ERA Is Essential to Democracy” Women & Democracy collection.)

The ERA: A New Foundation for Equality in the United States

In 21st century America, the battle for gender equality persists. In nearly a century after it was first proposed in Congress, the Equal Rights Amendment’s (ERA) simple guarantee that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” is still seen as a radical notion by some.

Yet despite opposition and obstacles, the ERA is closer than ever to enactment. Our 18th century Constitution—drafted without the inclusion of women, people of color native people or immigrants—is the most difficult to amend in the world. Yet, the ERA has met all of the Constitutional requirements for amendment set out in Article V.

(This essay is part of “The ERA Is Essential to Democracy” Women & Democracy collection.)

Why the ERA Is Needed—Even With the 14th Amendment

For years, critics have claimed that women don’t need the Equal Rights Amendment because the Supreme Court has secured women’s rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. 

At the time it was ratified in the 19th century, no one thought that the 14th Amendment protected women; its purpose was to end slavery. Thanks to pioneering lawsuits by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the 1970s, women did gain a measure of equal rights under the 14th Amendment, but lawyers know that those victories were limited.

(This essay is part of “The ERA Is Essential to Democracy” Women & Democracy collection.)

Abortion Bans = Sex Discrimination

On Jan. 29, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a law banning Medicaid funding for abortion discriminates against women, in violation of the state’s Equal Rights Amendment. The decision overturned a 1985 case saying the ERA did not apply to abortion.

“The Pennsylvania case is so sweeping and strong in the way that it identifies interference with reproductive decision-making as a form of sex discrimination and as part of the historic pattern of oppression of women. It’s really beautiful,” said Susan J. Frietsche, co-executive director of the Women’s Law Project, which filed the case on behalf of Pennsylvania abortion providers.

(This essay is part of “The ERA Is Essential to Democracy” Women & Democracy collection. It also appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Ms. Join the Ms. community today and you’ll get issues delivered straight to your mailbox!)

The Pathway to Recognizing the Equal Rights Amendment

At the Radical Optimism Conference on Jan. 26, hosted by former U.S. Rep Carolyn Maloney, political activists from around the state rallied for recognition of the federal ERA, made plans for securing a New York state constitutional amendment, plotted strategies for the 2024 elections and committed themselves to showing strong support by recruiting signers for the national ERA petition,

“In 2024, women’s rights will be on the ballot,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.

“If equality and the Equal Rights Amendment, in particular, weren’t so important, they wouldn’t be fighting so hard to keep it from us,” said Zakiya Thomas, president of the ERA Coalition.

(This essay is part of “The ERA Is Essential to Democracy” Women & Democracy collection.)