Alice Paul, author of the Equal Rights Amendment, was determined to gain equality for women in America. Although not as widely known as some wish she was, it was Alice’s bravery and steadfast resolve that directly influenced political action and gained women in America the right to vote. Through peaceful perseverance and stubborn determination, including a hunger strike, she and her fellow suffragists forced a change in the U.S. Constitution, with the addition of the Nineteenth Amendment.
After achieving women’s suffrage on August 26th, 1920, Alice turned to her greater goal, true Constitutional equality for women. By 1923, she and others had penned an Equal Rights Amendment and begun the effort to ensure gender equality was enshrined in the Constitution. In 1943, Alice Paul revised the wording to what we recognize today as the Equal Rights Amendment.
By appending six new words, “Equality of rights under the law,” to the end of the Nineteenth Amendment, “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” Alice built on the wording already in the Constitution. She simply expanded from the right to vote to equality of all rights, under the law.
In 1972, Congress finally passed the Equal Rights Amendment and set a 7-year ratification deadline, later extended to 10 years. In 1982, 35 states had ratified the ERA, just 3 states short of the required 3/4 of states.
Although the deadline passed the Equal Rights Amendment lives on! On March 22, 2017, 45 years to the day after Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify. On May 30, 2018, Illinois became the 37th. Virginia is well-positioned to be the 38th state, and is considered the next most likely state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
After the 38th state ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment it will be added to the Constitution via one of two paths:
1. Judiciary branch: Article V does not provide for an amendment deadline and a fully ratified amendment has never been kept out of the Constitution.
2. Legislative branch: Because the deadline is not in the Amendment language itself, Congress can remove or extend the deadline, as it did once prior on October 20, 1978.