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Women’s History Is World History
Many groups have faced long, uphill battles when it comes to their rights as human beings, both in the United States and around the world. March is Women’s History Month, and March 8 is International Women’s Day. We could never name all the women who have made an impact throughout history, because there are countless women who have made a difference in all of our lives. But we can look at events that played a major role. In the U.S., for instance, women fought hard for the right to vote. It was a battle that led to the creation of the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In the years leading up to the 19th Amendment in 1919, many states and territories had already passed laws granting women the right to vote. The Wyoming Territory granted women suffrage in 1869, and several states followed suit, but the movement didn’t gain federal support until 1919. The amendment was first introduced to Congress in 1878, 41 years before it would ultimately pass. But it still had a lot of opposition in Washington and around the country. It took a lot of hard work by people like Susan B. Anthony before it received the support it needed to be passed. After women’s right to vote was passed on the federal level in 1919, it was successfully ratified by the states in 1920, making this year the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The official anniversary date is Aug. 18. Of course, this represented one of the many battles faced by women throughout history. Another battle was one of equality, including equality in pay. This was represented by the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which has a lengthy history in the U.S. Congress passed the ERA in March 1972. The amendment was written as a guarantee for equal rights among U.S. citizens no matter your sex. It ensured men and women were treated the same in every possible way.
The amendment was first introduced to Congress in 1923, but it didn’t receive the support it needed to get off the ground. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the ERA started to find significant support, thanks in part to the women’s movement. In March 1972, it was finally passed. However, as an amendment, it needed to be ratified by the states. Congress set a deadline of March 22, 1979. It had to be ratified by 38 out of 50 states in order to become an amendment to the Constitution. It reached 35 states at its peak (five states rescinded support leading up to the deadline). It was a hard-fought battle. Its opponents mobilized, and the deadline passed without the state support it needed to be ratified. Despite wide bipartisan support by Congress and Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter, it simply wasn’t enough. However, in the late 2010s, the ERA saw a resurgence of support. Several state legislatures took another look at the amendment, and three voted to ratify ERA decades after it was passed in Congress. This included Nevada in 2017, Illinois in 2018, and Virginia just this year. Where this goes next, no one yet knows, as there is limited legal precedent for this type of action. The 27th Amendment was passed by Congress in 1789, but not ratified by the states until 1992 — a 203-year wait! The 27th Amendment is related to the compensation received by members of Congress. The ERA may return to the public consciousness and may become an official amendment if it gains support again, but it nevertheless represents the divide between men and women, in that women have to fight harder for many of their rights. We thank all the women today and throughout history who have made our world possible, who have stood up to oppression, and who decided they wanted a better world for themselves and all of us.
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