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Equal Rights Amendment
 
      The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal rights for women. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul and, in 1923, it was introduced in the Congress for the first time. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress and went to the state legislatures for ratification. The ERA failed to receive the requisite number of
ratifications before the final deadline mandated by Congress of June 30, 1982, and so it was not adopted.

Following the 1920 ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women throughout the United States the unabridged right to vote, Alice Paul, a suffragist leader, argued that this right alone would not end remaining vestiges of legal discrimination based upon sex. Alice Paul drafted the Equal Rights Amendment and, in 1923, presented it as the "Lucretia Mott Amendment" at the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and the Declararion of Sentiments.  

"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."

The National Women's Party already had tested its approach in Wisconsin, where it won the first state ERA in 1921.  It then took the proposed federal ERA to Congress in the 1920s, where Senator Charles Curtis, a future Vice President, and Representative Daniel R. Anthony, Jr. —Susan B. Anthony's nephew, both Kansas Republicans, introduced it for the first time as Senate Joint Resolution No. 21 on December 10, 1923, and as House Joint Resolution No. 75 on December 13, 1923, respectively. Though the ERA was introduced in every Congressional session between 1923 and 1970, it almost never reached the floor of either the Senate or the House for a vote — instead, it was usually "bottled up" in committee. Exceptions occurred in 1946, when it was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 38 to 35 and, in 1950 and 1953, when it was passed by the Senate with the Hayden Rider, making it unacceptable to ERA supporters. The Hayden Rider said:

"The provisions of this article shall not be construed to impair any rights, benefits, or exemptions now or hereafter conferred by law upon persons of the female sex."

In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower asked a joint session of Congress to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, the first President to show such a level of support for the amendment. However, whenever the ERA was proposed the Hayden Rider was added; this would make the amendment unacceptable to the National Woman's Party, who would then ask that the ERA be withdrawn.

The Republican Party included support of the ERA in its platform beginning in1940, renewing the plank every four years until 1980. The ERA was strongly opposed by the American Federation of Labor and other labor unions, who feared the amendment would invalidate protective labor legislation for women. ERA was also opposed by Eleanor Roosevelt and most New Dealers. They felt that ERA was designed for middle class women but that working class women needed government protection. They feared that ERA would undercut the male-dominated labor unions that were a core component of the New Deal coalition. Most northern Democrats, who aligned themselves with the anti-ERA labor unions, opposed the amendment. The ERA was supported by southern Democrats and almost all Republicans.

In 1944, the Democrats made the divisive step of including the ERA in their platform, but the Democratic Party did not become united in favor of the amendment until Congressional passage in 1972. The main support base for the ERA until the late 1960s was among middle class Republican women. The League of Women Voters, formerly the National American Women Suffrage Association, opposed the Equal Rights Amendment until 1972, fearing the loss of protective labor legislation. Despite this, the amendment kept in line with the views of women's rights advocated by early feminists like Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.

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