How Phyllis Schlafly Worked to Defeat the Equal Rights Amendment

In 1972, it seemed that ratifying the equal rights amendment was almost a sure thing.

First proposed to Congress in 1923 by suffragist Alice Paul, the proposed 27th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which stated that “equal rights under the law must not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state because of sex, ”had passed with bipartisan and public support and was sent to state legislatures for ratification.

But the ERA included a seven-year clause for the ratification deadline (which Congress extended until 1982), and although 35 of the 38 state legislatures required by a three-quarter majority had voted to ratify the amendment , his supporters had not counted on a conservative popular movement led by activist and lawyer Phyllis Schlafly which would ultimately lead to the defeat of the ERA, bringing down three states.

“What I am defending are the real rights of women”, Schlafly said at the time. “A woman should have the right to be at home as a wife and a mother.”

ERA: open to interpretation

Don Critchlow, author of Phyllis Schlafly and the popular right and the future rightand the Katzin family professor at Arizona State University says one of the problems was that the amendment was loose in wording.

“It meant that it was going to have to be interpreted by the courts and she – and her large number of followers – feared that the courts would interpret it as abortion on demand, gay marriage and women in the project.” he says. “In addition, she believed that much of the legislation protecting women in matters of pay and gender discrimination had already been enacted.”

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