Do American Women Still Need an Equal Rights Amendment?Roundup
tags: feminism, womens history, Equal Rights Amendment, Phylis Schlafly
Ms. Chira is a senior correspondent and editor on gender issues for The New York Times.
When Phyllis Schlafly crusaded against the Equal Rights Amendmentin the 1970s as a threat to all-American motherhood, she handed out freshly baked bread and apple pie to state legislators. She warned of a dystopian post-E.R.A. future of women forced to enlist in the military, gay marriage, unisex toilets everywhere and homemakers driven into the workplace by husbands free to abandon them.
The E.R.A., which had been sailing to ratification, failed. Yet gay marriage is now the law. Women in the military see combat, although women are not required to register for the draft. Six women — so far — are running for president. A record-shattering number of women have claimed seats in Congress. And the percentage of prime-working-age women participating in the labor force has soared from 51 percent in 1972, when Congress passed the E.R.A., to more than 75 percent last year.
So what protections did American women earn without a constitutional amendment? Did the country get everywhere the people pushing for the amendment wanted it to go? These questions, once theoretical, are newly relevant with a push to revive the Equal Rights Amendment. It was left for dead in 1982, when three states failed to ratify it by a congressionally imposed deadline, leaving it short of the necessary two-thirds of the states needed for ratification.But in the past two years, Nevada and Illinois have ratified the amendment. In Virginia, campaigners are pushing the state to ratify the amendment before the legislative session ends on Feb. 23, though ratification is a long shot.
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