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As It Was: Rogue Valley Women Seek Equal Rights 40 Years Ago

An amendment to the Constitution saying equal rights under the law cannot be denied or abridged on the basis of sex was originally proposed in 1923 and passed by Congress on March 22, 1972.

By the 1979 deadline set by Congress, only 35 of the 38 states required had ratified it, including Oregon.  After Congress extended the deadline, the Rogue Valley Chapter of the National Organization for Women worked to raise money for groups fighting for ratification in other states.

In March 1980, the local chapter lent the local Equal Rights Alliance $15 in support of the Equal Rights Amendment and sponsored a benefit showing of the movie titled “Bound for Glory” about Woodie Guthrie, at the Varsity Theater in Ashland.

The chapter could not have known that the battle to ratify the ERA would continue for another 40 years.  Since 2017, Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia passed the amendment, bringing the total to 38, but five other states reversed their original ratification.

Debate and suits continue over whether deadlines matter or states can backtrack.  The U.S. Supreme Court probably will be the final arbiter of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Sources: "Equal Rights Amendment." Wikipedia, Feb. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_Rights Amendment.

"ERA Benefit, SOERA." Rogue Valley Chapter N.O.W., Mar. 1980. Teacher Khadaroo, Stacy. "Will the ERA Cross the Finish Line?" Christian Science Monitor Weekly, 24 Feb. 2020, p. 15.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.