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The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was significant because it represented a major step (albeit a failed step) in the move towards women's rights. It is also important because it shows how much conflict there was in the 1970s over social issues.
The ERA was proposed as a way to give women equal legal status to men. This was a major goal of the women's rights movement. However, the furor over the ERA and its eventual defeat showed that there was still a great deal of resistance to change. There were enough people who strongly supported the traditional, male-dominated society to defeat the ERA.
The ERA, then, is a symbol of the cultural conflicts of the 1970s.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed modification to the US constitution granting equal rights to women. After its passage through the Houses in 1972, it was sent to the State for ratification. Only 35 out of the required 38 ratifications were obtained by the deadline of 1979. Five states withdrew their ratification and no new state ratified it till the extended deadline of 1982. The bill failed to become a law as a result.
The bill was significant as it provided recognition to the growing role of women in society and also pointed to ongoing gender-based discrimination, especially in the workplace. Women were no longer confined to homes, but were also making strides in the professional world and needed recognition for their efforts. The failure of the bill was an indication that male-dominated society was not yet ready to provide equal footing to women and/or that women were ready for an all-out fight to obtain their rights.
The Equal Rights Amendment was born out of the women's suffrage movement and for many appeared to be the next logical step in women's rights.
The push for women’s rights, in particular the right to vote, began in the 1840s. But it wasn’t until 1920 that the 19th amendment was added to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote. This amendment gave women some political power but rights in other areas of their lives, like employment and healthcare, were still not granted by law.
The ERA was created to end discrimination based on sex. It was introduced by Alice Paul (a women’s rights activist who helped push through the 19th Amendment) at the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the 1848 Woman's Rights Convention in 1923. Initially the amendment was called the Lucretia Mott Amendment in honor of an early women’s rights activist. The amendment was rewritten in 1943 but did not get much political traction until the 1960s.
The Equal Rights amendment passed the House of Representatives and the Senate and was proposed as the 27th Amendment on March 27, 1972 but it failed to be ratified by enough states to become an amendment.
Women’s rights organizations continue to push for an equal rights amendment. The current version is divided into 3 sections:
“Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”
The ERA follows the pattern of the 19th Amendment and other political and social changes in relation to women. When it comes to women’s rights, things move slowly. It took 70 years for women to get the right to vote. The push back against the ERA shows a continued discrimination against women that is also reflected in wage gaps, the number of women in positions of power in government and business, women’s healthcare legislation and the percentage of violent crimes against women.
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