History of the Equal Rights Amendment
Alice Paul drafted and introduced the first Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1923, at a conference to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention. She was a Republican and one of the founders of the National Woman’s Party, which worked for the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote. After successfully gaining women’s suffrage in 1920, Paul characterized the amendment as the next logical step for the women’s movement.
Support for the amendment slowly grew, and the ERA was added to the Republican Party platform in 1940 and Democratic Party platform in 1944. In 1972, nearly fifty years after it was first introduced, the ERA passed the House and Senate with the required two-thirds majority. The amendment was then sent for ratification by three-fourths of the states with a seven-year deadline.
States initially rushed to ratify the ERA and twenty-two states ratified the amendment within the first year. Progress slowed over the years and by 1977, two years before the ratification deadline expired, only 35 of the 38 states needed had ratified. Five states rescinded their ratification, but the legal status of these rescissions is uncertain. When it became clear that the thirty-eight states needed for ratification would not occur by the 1979 deadline, legislation was passed by Congress to extend the deadline to June 30, 1982. No further states ratified during this time period and the ERA was not added to the Constitution.
In 2017, Nevada ratified the ERA becoming the 36th state. In 2018, Illinois became the 37th state. Activity is now taking place in the remaining 13 states to see who will be the historic number 38.
Here are some of the key dates:
- 1776 – Abigail Adams wrote her husband “remember the ladies”
- 1848 – First Woman’s Rights Convention
- 1923 – ERA first introduced into Congress
- 1940 – Republican party included ERA in platform
- 1944 – Democratic party included ERA in platform
- 1972 – ERA passes Congress and moves to states for ratification
- 1977 – 35 of the needed 38 states had ratified the ERA
- 1978 – Deadline for ratification extended from 1979 to 1982
- 1982 – Still only 35 states ratified the ERA
- 2017 – Nevada ratifies the ERA
- 2018 – Illinois ratifies the ERA
- 2020 - Virginia ratifies the ERA
- 2020 - U.S. Archivist refuses to add ERA to the Constitution based on guidance from DOJ
- 2021 – The Equal Rights Amendment is not yet part of U.S. Constitution
Text of the Amendment
Here is the text of the amendment:
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
Status of Ratification by State