Equal Rights Amendment

Plank 11 of the National Plan of Action was just seven words: “The Equal Rights Amendment should be ratified.” The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that guaranteed equal rights for all citizens regardless of sex. Congress introduced some form of the amendment in every session between 1923 and 1970, but a resolution almost never reached the floor for a vote. The House of Representatives finally passed the ERA on October 12, 1971. After the Senate gave its approval on March 22, 1972, Congress sent the legislation to the states for ratification. Thirty states ratified the ERA within the next year—Texas was eighth—but progress stalled amid a growing conservative backlash. By the time of the National Women’s Conference, the ERA was three states short of the requisite 38.

Delegates adopted the resolution by a standing vote of approximately five to one, prompting singing and dancing to break out in the aisles. Passing a resolution, however, did not ratify the amendment. Despite a congressional extension of the ratification deadline from 1979 to 1982, no additional states would approve the legislation and the ERA was ultimately defeated.