This post highlights one of the nearly 50 items digitized by the UVA Library in celebration of the Rebirth of the Public Domain on January 1, 2019. I’ll share similar spotlights throughout the year to help highlight the value of the public domain in entertaining, informing, and fueling the creativity of present-day readers, thinkers, artists, and others.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is in the news a lot, lately, at least here in Virginia. The ERA is a proposed amendment to the US Constitution that would bar legal distinctions based on sex. First proposed in 1921, it has been debated off and on ever since. It was passed by both houses of congress in the early 1970s, with support from both major parties, but was never ratified by enough of the states to secure adoption. Congress set deadlines for state ratification that expired in the early 1980s, but some believe (citing Supreme Court precedent) that these deadlines can be overcome, and are seeking ratification from three more states in order to force the issue.
One of the objections that surfaced in the 1980s, and was used by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly to block the amendment, was the notion that the ERA would outlaw legal provisions that provide women with special protection, including their exclusion from the military draft and entitlement to alimony.
Well, it turns out this was not the first time that argument had been raised against the ERA. As the newly digitized broadside “The Equal Rights Amendment and Protective Legislation” shows, womens’ rights activists like the National Women’s Party have been trying to rebut this charge since, well, 1923! You can read (and download, and share) the full text of their rebuttal below: