It’s also time for a series of blogs on what’s happening in Colorado during a year revolving around women’s history. Aside from the march, 2020 marks the centennial of the United States Congress ratifying the 19thAmendment, giving women the right to vote.
(The wonderful photo posted here is from History Colorado’s collection.)
The Denver Post featured eye-catching opinion columns the past two Sundays. The one yesterday was a barn-burner about the Womxn’s March Denver on Saturday, January 18, and the other was a recap on Sunday, January 5, of where things stand with the Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA. Which is not really standing anywhere after a roaring start almost five decades ago – or maybe it is.
Back in the day, it was important to read works by writers and activists such as Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Flo Kennedy, Kate Millett and so many others who focused on feminism and freedoms. “Womyn” was a word then, removing men from that word. In the past couple of years, some people are using an “x” in “womxn” to again rework the word, to expand the meaning and be more inclusive of transgender people and people of color.
Despite spellings, the ERA sort of got lost in the ether, meeting some fierce opposition.
According to a website devoted to the ERA:
“On March 22, 1972, the ERA was placed before the state legislatures, with a seven-year deadline to acquire ratification by three-fourths (38) of the state legislatures. A majority of states ratified the proposed constitutional amendment within a year.”
Many states signed on quickly. Colorado’s legislature approved it on April 21, 1972. But then along came those who did not want this amendment to be ratified. One of the loudest voices, political strategist Phyllis Schlafly, stirred the pot to slow things down; she was incredibly conservative and did not believe that the ERA would help women. One of her main concerns was about the draft. The Vietnam War was still raging, and she didn’t want women to have to register for the draft. (I had already left my home town of St. Louis, where Schlafly lived, but still grrrrrr.)
At her death in 2016, NPR posted an obituary, which included this: “… Schlafly’s legacy is perhaps most tied to her outspoken criticism of the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would have explicitly prohibited gender discrimination. It was passed by Congress in 1972 but defeated in the years to come, when it failed to be ratified by enough states — partly because of Schlafly’s fierce opposition.”
That deadline for ratification was extended to 1982 by Congress, but some states rescinded their approval. There are still states that haven’t addressed it. And according to a story last week on CNN, the federal government announced it was time to just give it up for the ERA:
“The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel is arguing that the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment has expired, a blow to supporters’ push to enshrine the long-sought effort.
” ‘We conclude that Congress had the constitutional authority to impose a deadline on the ratification of the ERA and, because that deadline has expired, the ERA Resolution is no longer pending before the States,’ the OLC said in an opinion released (last) Wednesday.”
But a recent story on NBC takes a different tack, noting that Virginia was poised to vote on the ERA, and there is push-back to find a way to revive the ERA. Suffragist Alice Paul wrote the amendment, and it was introduced to Congress in 1923. After so much work, to drop it seems wrong.
Still, there is better news. In 1893, Colorado again was in the forefront to grant women the right to vote; Wyoming was the first to take that step, in 1890.
Congress didn’t pass the 19th amendment until June 1919, which was ratified in August 1920, giving women the right to vote. It took many, many decades to get that done.
And that’s why on my calendar, this year there will be posts on events being held through 2020 so we all remember the many years of the hard work to win the vote for women. The marches that began in January 2017 inspired women (and men) to rise to the occasion to protect their rights and liberties. In the years between 2017 and 2020, it’s been a long haul of concern and purged voter rolls and many losses, but we can hope for a better and brighter 2021. At least, I hope so.
The links below include: the two columns in The Denver Post, two stories on the status of the ERA, websites chronicling voting history and the ERA, and NPR’s obituary on Schlafly.