As the 1982 deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) approached, pro- and anti-ERA activists sent letters to Florida’s Governor Bob Graham expressing their opinions about the amendment. Letters from all over the state and country arrived at the governor’s office. A selection of these letters have been digitized recently, and they demonstrate the passionate feelings U.S. residents had regarding the ERA.
A supporter from Sarasota encouraged the governor to speak up for the amendment to persuade legislators to vote in favor of it. “We are so close,” she wrote. “I am trying not to give up hope.”
Governor Graham supported the amendment, but a pro-ERA activist criticized the governor for his “lukewarm” support of it. “I am confident that this Legislature will ratify [the] ERA, and send a state ERA to the people for ratification,” the supporter wrote.
Activists also employed creative methods to communicate their message with the governor. This Valentine’s Day poem requests “a more meaningful gift” for the holiday — the ratification of the ERA.
Anti-ERA activists wrote letters equally as impassioned as the pro-ERA activists. A resident of Penney Farms in Clay County believed the amendment would have negative effects on American society: “If all of [the] ERA’s ramifications were fully enforced American society would soon become confused, frustrated and hardly recognizable.”
Another opponent asserted that supporters were mistaken about the benefits of the amendment, saying that “If all Americans would be capable of studying it and visualizing possible consequences and damages ERA would cause, they would have to reject it.”
The governor’s position on the ERA remained unchanged. In the final days before the June 30 deadline, Governor Graham called the Legislature into a special session hoping to pass the amendment. On June 22, the amendment narrowly passed through the Florida House with a vote of 60 to 58. A few hours later, the amendment was defeated in the Florida Senate by a vote of 22 to 16.
For more information about the history of the ERA, read our blog Florida and the Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.