How Important Was Phyllis Schlafly’s Role In The Defeat Of The U.S. Equal Rights Amendment?

2171 words - 9 pages

Plan of Investigation
This investigation addresses the following question: How important was Phyllis Schlafly’s role in the defeat of the U.S. Equal Rights Amendment? In order to evaluate her importance, this investigation will address several factors that contributed to the defeat of the ERA, such as the negative portrayal of women by the press, the decriminalization of abortion, the split between feminists who wanted the ERA to pass and those who believed that its passage would lead to the deterioration of women’s protective laws, and the role of the Phyllis Schlafly and her Stop ERA campaign. One source used in this investigation, “Stop ERA,” is evaluated for its insight into Phyllis Schlafly’s plan on how to campaign against the ERA, as she was the author of this document. The second source, an excerpt from the article “The Equal Rights Amendment: A Constitutional Basis for Equal Rights of Women,” will be analyzed for its professional, relatively unbiased opinions; this article was written for the Yale Law Journal in 1971, meaning that it consists of a concrete legal analysis of the amendment from the time period in which it was being ratified.

B. Summary of Evidence
In 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment was drafted by Alice Paul and subsequently introduced to Congress. Paul and the National Organization for Women began campaigning for its passage in 1967. In 1972, Congress passed the ERA and the states began to evaluate it for ratification, with a seven-year deadline. It garnered the support of 22 states in the first year, but the level of support slowly dwindled as time went on. The opposition against the ERA was headed by Phyllis Schlafly, the leader of Stop ERA. Opponents were effective in persuading states to abandon the ERA – by 1979, five states rescinded their ratification.

Negative Image of Female Supporters
Pro-ERA women were often portrayed negatively by the media as the butt of “heavy-handed jokes” and political cartoons. Women were also underrepresented in the media – when the press interviewed people for a story about abortion, most of the interviewees were male. Opponents of the ERA claimed that proponents were “masculine and homosexual” and as “deviates from the traditional feminine woman.” In addition, female supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment did little to keep up a good public image. In attempts to get the support of legislators, they defaced buildings and harassed and tried to bribe legislators. On the other hand, opponents of the ERA used society’s view of the traditional female woman to their advantage and used peaceful, feminine tactics such as baking cookies for legislators.

Impact on Traditional Family
The Equal Rights Amendment would prohibit discrimination against women in the workplace and work toward better protection toward both men and women. It would also “prohibit dictating different roles for men and women within the family on the basis of sex.” Women could also be drafted by...

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