Thomas Jefferson once said that “all men are created equal.”Obviously this is true but do we show in America today? Has there ever been equality between men and women? Will there ever be equality between men and women? How have things changed since America was founded? How can the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) help guarantee equality? What can I as a citizen do to help?
Inequality has always been a very hot topic in America ever since it was founded. At one point in history, if you were not rich, white and male you couldn’t vote, buy property and it was very hard to find a job. While women’s voices were stifled early on in matters such as voting this did not mean there were not people who still fought for liberties such as the right to vote. Susan B. Anthony was perhaps one of the most famous women’s rights activists in the history of America. Having been a Quaker, Anthony was raised on the belief that men and women were equal and should work together to eradicate all cruelty and injustice in the world. She was also an anti-slavery activest. She was the second president of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association(NAWSA) and fought for the right to vote until she died on March 13th, 1906.
Many women’s rights activists like Susan B. Anthony, Elizibeth Cady Stanton, Ida B Wells and others were also black rights activists. However, they believed in the concept of universal equality. This meant that when the 15th amendment–which granted black men the right to vote was introduced they still rejected despite their affiliation with the civil rights movement. They did want blacks to have the right to vote but not until everyone had the vote.
On June 4, 1919 congress passed the 19th amendment which guarantees all american women the right to vote. The amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920. After decades of adversity, protests and political warfare the women of America had made what is to this day probably one of the most momentous steps toward gender equality. Still, there was much work to do. While they had the right to vote, there were still many things afforded to men but not women. Women had a much lower average pay. They would often not be picked over men for jobs, especially those of higher authority. Women could even be fired for getting pregnant. It wasn’t until 1978 that the pregnancy descrimination act was passed prohibiting from firing an employee because they are pregnant.
Once women had earned the right to vote their main focus of equality shifted to the workplace. It was a common fact that women made far less than men, even in a job of the same importance and difficulty. On the 10th of June 1963 congress passed the equal pay act which requires equal pay for equal work. This however, did not mean much. Congress does not have the power to enforce what they pass. This showed in the wage gap between men and women. In the year 1973 the wage gap hit its widest point where, on average, every dollar that a man earned, a woman would earn 57 cents. This was unacceptable.
On March 22, 1972 congress passed the ERA. First proposed in 1923 by Alice Paul (founder of the national women’s party), the ERA guarantees equal legal rights for everyone regardless of gender. However, there was an issue with the ERA similar to that of the equal pay act and it was that congress could not enforce it. It was sent to the individual states for ratification. For it to become federal law, it needed to be ratified by 38 states and only 35 did so. Since this time two more states have approved the amendment. Nevada in 2017 and Illinois in 2018. There only needs to be one more state to approve the amendment for it to pass.
Utah stands among the 13 states that have not agreed to the amendment. Utah does have laws prohibiting discremination between genders in the workplace; however, I still believe they should sign to pass the amendment. While our country has taken tremendous strides to bring about equality we can always do more. The ERA is the next step toward total equality. Until the ERA is passed all that we can do is make our voices heard. Sign petitions, protest peacefully, give equal opportunities to all whenever you can. We should never stop progressing. We need to make all men and women equal as god intended.
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