The ERA Did Not Die in Vain

The ERA Did Not Die in Vain

is it not a disgrace that a society priding itself on its advoacy of human rights, on its sense of equality and individualism, would deny the symbolic recognition of these rights to women? It took a struggle of more than 70 years to obtain the women’s right to vote. The fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, which began in 1923, may take as long. The reason is the same today as it was then: the general fear of the public, of men and women, that the official recognition of women’s right to make individual decisions and to equality in the workplace will weaken their commitment to the family.

Just as the women’s right to vote did not bring about their full equality or other basic changes in their social place to the extent that it was hoped or feared, so the ERA as such would not accomplish these aims either. Since 1890, 16 states have adopted an amendment for women’s equal rights in their constitutions. And although this has helped in some cases to make sex discrimination illegal (as Ronald K. L. Collins has noted in the New York Times), American family life has suffered no more in these states than in those that have not adopted such amendments, nor have the more subtle types of discrimination been affected. Yet the passage of the ERA would have marked a symbolic stemming of the tide of sexism and would have helped to facilitate legal improvements.

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Lima