“In Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
This preamble to the U.S. Constitution declares the promise of America.
But for American women, the promise has been willfully delayed. The Founding Fathers granted citizens’ rights only to property-owning white males. Over the years, constitutional amendments gradually extended rights to others, including, after the Civil War, to former slaves — but excluded the female half of that population.
Having won the right to vote, women began a campaign for full equality under the law in 1923, when Alice Paul wrote the first Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA was introduced in every session of Congress until it finally passed Congress in 1972 and went to the states for ratification. However, the preamble required a seven-year deadline, which Congress later extended to 1982 — a total of only 10 years.
To put an amendment into the Constitution, three-fourths of the states (38) must ratify it. When the deadline was reached, 35 states had ratified. Fifteen states refused to do so, including North Carolina. Continue reading