WHAT IF the ERA had passed in 1923?

When I was a little girl, the first hobby I picked up was Tawkwon-do. I was good. The boys in my dojo didn't like practicing against a girl who could rack up points on them without effort. I vividly remember my first district competition. I beat 6 boys, some taller and older than me. As I look back at pictures on that day, my hand held high by the referee, I was shy about my wins in the moment but super proud of my trophies once home safe with family. After a year of training, my mom told me one day that I needed to keep up my practice as I got older. She told me the reason she signed me up was so I would know how to protect myself. It was at that point I viewed the entire sport differently. I lost my passion to simply enjoy the rhythm of the moves, the confidence and passion from yelling my kais drained. I saw it as a chore, something I must do to fend off the world.

In my freshman year as a veterinary medicine university student I was surrounded by brilliant minds, taught by male professors with egos to match their booming voices. That shyness crept up again as I quietly watched the young men, full of confidence, match their professors wit and wisdom. It was a camaraderie I couldn't relate to at all. Half way through the term, I had a meeting with the professor. He asked me what type of medicine I wanted to practice. I told him "large, farm animal". His response, "You're too small to be successful. Those farm animals will knock you into next week." I changed my major to Elementary Education in the Spring.

My 4th year teaching, my colleague started planning for a family and shared her news with our team about the difficulties. She was attempting to time her pregnancy so the baby would be born in the summer. She wanted to spend more than 6 weeks with her newborn. This was for financial reasons but also because she wanted to breastfeed as long as possible. Single and carefree, it never crossed my mind to consider any of this. The whole conversation all seemed a little off but I didn't dwell on it.

All these moments in my life happened without the Equal Rights Amendment. If Congress decided in 1923, when the ERA was first proposed, to amend the Constitution and include women as equals, I wonder how would that have impacted my childhood, my college experience, my career, my family? If the ERA had been ratified 97 years ago, I would like to think that gender equality would have changed America so by the time I was born my mom would have simply encouraged Taekwon-do because I enjoyed it. Maybe that professor would have viewed my potential based on my mind instead of physical size. Perhaps teachers wouldn't need to plan their pregnancy around the school calendar. Ratifying the ERA means more than granting women equality under law. It is a statement to the world that America views women as equals. We must ratify the ERA now or this moment might be lost for another 97 years. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once explained, “I would like my granddaughters when they pick up the U.S. Constitution to see that … women and men are persons of equal stature. I’d like them to see that that is a basic principle of our society.”

Jamie M, Colorado voter residing in Edinburgh, Scotland