ScopeThis pathfinder covers the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) from its birth in 1923 to its death in 1983, to its afterlife from 1983 to the present. The content focuses on pro-ERA activities, in particular the activities of the National Woman’s Party. Generally materials relate to the ERA at the national level, although some focus on North Carolina. All materials can be found at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill libraries. The pathfinder is intended for undergraduates and contains books and journals for students doing general research as well as government documents and manuscripts for those who want to conduct more detailed research.
IntroductionIn 1920, soon after ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, the National Woman’s Party and its leader, Alice Paul, decided that a constitutional amendment granting equal rights to women was the next step in liberating women. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was first introduced to Congress in 1923. Although the amendment gained support in the 1930’s and 1940’s, until the late 1960’s the National Woman’s Party was the main advocate of the amendment. Many organizations, especially labor and women’s organizations, initially opposed the amendment because they feared it would end protective labor legislation for women. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, numerous women’s organizations, in particular the National Organization for Women (NOW) advocated for the amendment. Both houses of Congress finally passed the amendment in 1972 and sent it to the states for ratification. In order for the amendment to be added to the Constitution, three fourths of states had to ratify the amendment by 1979. By 1979, thirty-five of the thirty-eight needed states ratified the amendment and the deadline for ratification was extended to 1982. However, the amendment ultimately failed because no other states ratified it. Women’s organizations are still advocating for passage of the ERA.