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In 1923, three years after women won the right to vote, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced to Congress for the first time.

Many in the National Women's Movement believed that the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote, did not go far enough to ensure men and women were treated equally. The ERA, however, was specifically intended to do just that.

For women, it would bolster pay equity, domestic violence laws and pregnancy discrimination protections, among many other things. It could also affect men, such as by guaranteeing paid paternity leave equal to maternity leave.

It Originally Read:

“Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

For half a century, supporters fought to see it pass in Comgress.

Then, in 1972, it happened. Both houses passed a modified version of the Amendment that read:

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

This more inclusive version of the Amendment was sent to each state for their official consent. This ratification process required the approval of 38 states in order for the Amendment to pass.

Initially Only 35 States Approved

In 1972 the Amendment was strongly opposed by the STOP ERA campaign. Opponents were successful in using scare tactics to generate unreasonable fears about what gender equality would mean.

In 1982, the extended deadline for the Amendment to be ratified expired. Nearly four decades later, in 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, in 2018, Illinois was the 37th, and in 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment. The House of Representatives voted to remove the time limit on the amendment on February 13, 2020, and it is now with the Senate for approval.

In the 97 years since the original ERA was introduced, we’ve made a lot of progress, but we’re still not where we should be.

Consider this

Women are paid about $0.80 for every $1.00 a man makes. And women of color are paid even less

Sexual harassment is prevailent and largely tolerated (see#MeToo and #TimesUp)

Women make up less than one quarter of federal lawmakers

Since the ERA was first introduced it has faced fierce opposition from different groups. But the fight continues.

Figure 1

The gender wage gap is more significant for most women of color

Comparing 2018 median earnings of full-time, year round workers by race/ ethnicity and sex

Women’s median earnings

Notes: The gender wage gap is calculated by finding the ratio of women's and men's median earnings for full-time, year-round workers and then taking the difference. People WhO have identified their ethnicity as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race. Sources: For all groups except American Indian and Alaska Nativewomen, the Center for American Progress calculated the gender wage gap using data from U.S. Census Bureau, "Current Population Survey: PINC-OS. Work Experience-People 1S Years Old and Over, by Total Money Earnings, Age, Race, Hispanic Origin, Sex, and Disability Status: 2018," available at https:/Avvew.censusgovidatattables/time-seriesidemo/in-come-poverty/cps-pincipinc-05.html (last accessed March 2020). Specific tables used are on filewith the author. CAP calculated the gender wage gap for American Indian and Alaska Native women using U.S. Census Bureau, 'Table 820017C: American Indian and Alaska Nativealone population, non-Hispanic or Latino population 16-years and over with earnings in the past 12 months, 2018 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-Year Estimates,' available at http,/www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/(last accessed March 2020); U.S. Census Bureau,'Table B20017H: White alone, non-His-panic or Latino population 16-years and overwith earnings in the past 12 months, 2018 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-Year Estimates;' available at https://wwwcensus.gov/programs-surveys/ac, (last accessed March 2020).

That’s why we’re here to help.

The 1972 Project is a nonprofit organization and educational foundation committed to fighting for gender and racial equality, particularly in the workplace.

We are here to listen, engage, teach, support, and connect with people who are ready to make gender and racial equality a reality.

Change is long overdue. Won’t you join us?

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