This past Saturday, I attended the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Call to Action Panel in Brewer with 28 other women representing organizations from all across Maine. I was welcomed by an enthusiastic group of women of all ages, from Maine’s legislature, University of Maine Women’s Resource Center, Maine NEW Leadership, Business and Professional Women/ME, Maine, Maine Women’s Hall of Fame, and other organizations, gathered together to discuss the current state of the ERA and to move forward with strategy ideas. Many of the women in the room had fought hard for the ERA in the 1970s, and expressed their willingness to take up the issue again.
The ERA was written first in 1923 by Alice Paul, introduced into every Congress between 1923 and 1972, and in 1972 both houses of Congress approved the measure. By the 1982 deadline for ratification, the ERA was three states short of the 38 required to put it into the U.S. Constitution. Today, if three more states ratified the ERA, it is possible the ERA could become the 28th amendment.
The most recent Equal Rights Amendment proposal states,
“Women shall have equal rights in the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied to abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
After breaking down into groups to discuss how we, in Maine, could help those working to ratify the ERA in other states, we skyped with Sany Oestreich, ERA activist in Florida. Oestreich told us, “The Constitution is the nation’s contract with its citizens. Men are mentioned 39 times in the Constitution. The only time that women are mentioned is in the 19th amendment. Women are excluded from this written contract, and it matters enormously in today’s society. The 14th Amendment does not guarantee equality of the sexes.”
Oestreich has made the ERA a priority issue for the past 14 years – and she is leading the way in Florida with a website which informs the public about the ERA and urges readers to lobby with postcards. She said, seated on a couch with a sunny Florida poolside scene behind her, “Don’t iron while the strike is hot! I am 79 years old. Don’t let me die before the ERA is in the Constitution.”
Read more about the ACLU’s support of the ERA here.