Feminists have long supported an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would provide equality under the law to both men and women. Calls for such an amendment were first made by the National Women's Party in 1923, and became more insistent during the late 1960s from groups like the National Organization for Women.
An Equal Rights Amendment, stating that "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex," passed the House of Representatives in 1971 and the Senate the following year by the required two-thirds majority.
Though thirty states quickly ratified the amendment, its momentum gradually slowed, as anti-feminists such as Phyllis Schafly mounted a grassroots movement to defeat the measure. Thirty-five states ultimately ratified the ERA, but despite a controversial extension of time granted by the congress for ratification, the measure fell three states short of the required three-fourth's majority. One of the ERA battleground states was Florida, which had not yet ratified the amendment. The amendment was introduced or voted on in every legislative session from 1972 until 1982. Though it passed the Florida House of Representatives on several occasions, it never passed the Senate.
The final vote in 1982, the last session before the time period for ratification expired, was 60-58 in favor of ratification in the House, and 22-16 against ratification in the Senate. Reproduced here are four examples of the thousands of letters received by Florida politicians either in support or opposition of the ERA. Three of these items were received by Florida Senator Bruce A. Smathers, and one by Florida Governor Reubin Askew.
Jacksonville Coalition for the era
Equal Rights Amendment
P.O. Box 11072
Jacksonville, Florida 32211
February 6, 1974
Dear Senator Smathers:
Opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a blow to all Americans who believe that an individual's rights and responsibilities should not be dependent upon sex or marital status.
Why is it that men and women are not equally treated in awarding of child custody? Why is it that men and women are not considered equally in promotions? Please help change these inequities. Vote for, speak for, encourage support of the Equal Rights Amendment.