The 1960s ushered in a great time of social change, with both the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Liberation Movement, also referred to as the Second Wave of Feminism. During this time, women began to meet in groups known as “consciousness raising” (CR) groups to discuss the inequality and injustices they experienced in their lives. In addition to valuing the voices of women and validating their lived experiences, consciousness raising aimed to mobilize women around systemic injustice. “The Personal is Political” became a rallying cry for the movement, as women began to realize that the inequalities they experienced in their personal lives were representative of larger social and political inequities.
The Equal Rights Amendment
To mark the 75th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, Alice Paul proposed that the U.S. Constitution adopt an amendment that would ensure “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.” The amendment, then referred to as the “Lucretia Mott Amendment,” was introduced to Congress in 1923. Despite support from both Republicans and Democrats, the amendment stalled, in part due to concerns from the labor movement.
In 1943, Paul re-wrote the amendment, which was becoming known as the “Alice Paul Amendment,” to state, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The ERA finally passed the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, and was sent to the individual U.S. states for ratification in 1972. This set off a movement of anti-ERA sentiment in the U.S., led by both male and female social and religious conservatives.
The fight for the ERA continues to this day, with the state of Virginia becoming the 38th state to ratify the ERA on January 27, 2020. With this vote, the ERA has now reached the minimum number of states Congress required for ratification when the amendment was first approved in 1972. The deadline for state ratifications has passed, however, and five states (Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee, and South Dakota) have rescinded their prior approval. Therefore, the status of the ERA continues to be a pressing political concern today.