University of North Carolina at Asheville

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reason to Fight: The Opposition to the ERA in North Carolina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Senior Thesis Submitted to

The Department of History

In Candidacy for the Degree of

Bachelor of Arts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By

Shannon Scott-Rosehart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asheville, North Carolina

November 22, 2005

 

 

 

1.        Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any States on the account of sex.

2.        The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provision of this article.

3.        This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

 

                                                    Complete Text of the Equal Rights Amendment

 

 

      Above is the full text of what the Equal Rights Amendment would have been if it had been adopted. In March 1972, the United States Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), with a vote of eighty-four to eight. From there the amendment went to each state for ratification. For the ERA to pass it needed thirty-eight of the fifty states to ratify the amendment, however over the ten year run only thirty-five states would ratify the ERA, including five that later rescinded their first vote. When the amendment finally failed in 1982, many were shocked because over those ten years a majority of Americans consistently told interviewers that they favored this amendment. [1] So how did the ERA fail? Many scholars have researched the tactics used by the proponents of the ERA and what they did wrong; although scholars have not examined the people and states that opposed the ERA. North Carolina is an example of a state that became one of the leading battlegrounds in the fight against the ERA. Due to the leadership of former Senator Samuel Ervin Jr., of North Carolina, and the political involvement of ordinary women, the ERA not only failed in North Carolina, but its defeat there was held up as an example nationwide.

 

Brief History of the ERA

The ERA was first introduced into the Senate in 1923, three years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment. However, the ERA did not pass the Senate until March 1972. There are many reasons why it took so long to pass, but the main reason is that from 1923 through 1972 many legislators and advocates tried to reword and add clauses to the ERA. For example, most of the time the ERA was attached to the Hayden Clause which read: “Nothing in this Amendment will be constructed to deprive persons of the female sex of the rights,  benefits, and exemptions now conferred by law on persons of the female sex.” [2]  The advocates of the ERA, however, opposed the Hayden Clause, thus leaving the ERA at a stand still. Then there was the Wiggins Amendment which would of exempt women from “compulsory military service” and would have also preserved other laws that reasonably promote health and safety of people.[3] Just like the Hayden Clause, this did not please advocates of the ERA.

 When the ERA was finally passed in March 1972, Senator Ervin, Jr., of North Carolina proposed nine separate amendments to the ERA to protect traditional rights of women. The “Ervin Amendments” would have exempted women from compulsory military service and combat duty. The amendments would have also protected the traditional rights of wives, mothers and widows, and preserved the responsibility of fathers to support their children. The amendments would have preserved the privacy of males and females, and would still have laws that made sexual offenses punishable as crimes.[4] Just like the others, all nine of these amendments failed too. But, Ervin’s intention with these nine amendments was to undermine the real meaning of the ERA.

At first it seemed like the ERA would be ratified. On the same day the amendment passed in the United States Senate, the ERA was also passed in Hawaii, followed by Delaware, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Idaho, and Iowa the next day. [5] Between 1972 and 1973 twenty-four more states would ratify the amendment. Yet by late 1973, the ERA already started losing ground and the proponents of the ERA realized they had a harder fight then they thought. In the next ten years the ERA was never ratified. Some states voted on it every year and others, like North Carolina, voted every other. However, the ERA would never shine like it did at the beginning, and the proponents tried to get an extension on the time of the ERA, it would be buried in 1982.

Reasons Why People Opposed the ERA and Who these Women Were

Just like her sister southern states, North Carolina had the same oppositions to the ERA, however North Carolina had more of a passion to fight against the ERA.  What made North Carolina different from the others, and why North Carolina was held up as an example, is because North Carolina had the leadership of Senator Ervin, Jr., who became one of the strongest speakers not just locally but nationwide against the ERA. With Senator Ervin’s help and Phyllis Schlafly (nationwide spokeswoman against the ERA and founder of STOP ERA), the most ordinary and apolitical women of North Carolina became one of the strongest collations against the ERA. In a letter Schlafly wrote to Ervin on January 20, 1977, she claimed that, “We are moving into the final lap of the fight on the Equal Rights Amendment, and North Carolina has become the battleground of our last stand. The crucial test is in your state. I am convinced that if we win in North Carolina, we can defeat the ERA.”[6] Schlafly realized that if North Carolina ratified the ERA, other southern states that had looked toward North Carolina for guidance would also vote for the ERA.

The general purpose of the ERA was to require that all federal, state, and local governments treat each person, male and female as equal individuals, thus prohibiting any discrimination on the basis of a person’s sex. [7]  This amendment only applied to the government section, and not to the private lives of men and women. In doing so the ERA would eliminate any laws protecting women, for that would be discrimination against one sex.

For example the ERA would have required that women be allowed to volunteer for military service on the same basis as men; that is, women who are physically and otherwise qualified could not be prohibited from joining the service solely on the basis of their sex. It meant women would also be subject to the draft. The draft also applied to women the same way it applied to men. The idea of the draft brought many fears into the minds of women, since the United States had just been through Vietnam. The draft also gave the opponents a scare tactic to use on women if the ERA should pass. It was not uncommon to see young women of North Carolina wearing badges that said, “All that is between me and the draft is the ERA.”[8] Ultimately, they believed the draft meant destroying the home. However, the proponents of the ERA came back with “women cannot achieve true equality with men by securing identity of treatment under the law,” which meant that if men are subject to the draft, so should women.[9]  Being drafted is a duty that women should be proud of, and not fear. One proponent of the ERA, Ms. Wanda Hamilton wrote to Senator Ervin about her feelings on the draft, “I: for one, love my country, and I’d die for her if I had to.”[10] Nevertheless to the ERA opponents, the way women showed their love of their country was by staying at home.

A pamphlet put out by STOP ERA of North Carolina (a grassroots organization that was organized and led by women of North Carolina) had four sections, “ERA Will Hurt the Family, The Mischief of the ERA, What the ERA Will Not Do, and Who Opposes ERA.[11] This pamphlet not only outlines the reason the opponent opposed the ERA, but also STOP ERA of North Carolina distributed these pamphlets everywhere.

 The first section deals with how the “ERA Will Hurt the Family”: “ERA will invalidate all state laws which require a husband to support his wife; the ERA will impose on women the equal finanacial obligation to support their spouses. The ERA will impose on mothers the equal financial obligation for the financial support of their children.”[12] The opponents of the ERA saw this as meaning that women would no longer have the luxury of staying at home. Those mothers would have to have a job, thus taking them out of the home and destroying the family unit. The section goes on to say that the “ERA will deprive senior women, who spent many years in the home as a wife and a mother, of their present right to be supported by their husbands, and to be provided with a home, that the ERA would eliminate the present right of a wife to draw Social Security benefits based on her husband’s earning.”[13] Opponents of the ERA saw this as meaning that older women who had never worked outside of the home would now be forced to get a job.

The section on how the “ERA Will Hurt the Family” touched on two of the most controversial issues associated with the ERA, abortion and homosexuality. “The ERA will deprive state legislators of all power to stop or regulate abortions at any time during pregnancy. ERA will give women a ‘constitutional’ right to abortion on demand.”[14] From the beginning proponents did not want the ERA to be linked with abortion; opponents found that linking abortion and ERA was a way to generate opposition to the ERA, especially in states like North Carolina that were having problems dealing with the court rulings recently passed on abortion. People saw abortion and the ERA as a way for women to be released from their traditional responsibilities as a homemaker, thus once again providing an example of how the ERA would have broken up the home.[15] It did not help that opponents of the ERA made it an issue that if the ERA were to pass, then it would be mandatory that government help fund abortion clinics. The link between the ERA and abortion was one of the main failures of the ERA.[16]

 Abortion was one of the two most controversial issues of the ERA; the other idea of homosexuality being legal was even more an issue in North Carolina. In all the letters from the Senator Ervin Private Papers at Chapel Hill, not one letter mention abortion, however most of the letters mentioned homosexuality. According to the pamphlet, “The ERA will legalize homosexual marriages and permit such couples to adopt children and get tax and homestead benefits now given to husbands and wives.”[17] The idea of same-sex marriage scared people, but the idea of homosexuals adopting children put real fear in people. Elizabeth Carter Harrison Wshite of Winston-Salem wrote Senator Ervin claiming that, “To know the ERA would allow homosexuals to marry and adopt children is frightening and shocking realization of a none too rosy picture of the future of our country. I just wish that instead of condoning homosexual marriages, as the ERA would do, that Homosexual Treatment Centers might be set up all over our country.”[18] The legalization of homosexuality made a lot of the conservatives nervous about the moral future of the country and their state.Emmet Owen wrote to Senator Ervin claiming, “If we allow Equal Rights Amendment to become the law of our land, then you can say, it’s all over for the God loving people, to enjoy the freedom given them in the great land by our maker.”[19] Senator Ervin summed it up in his speech in Raleigh, NC in 1977, “I don’t know but one group of people in the United States the ERA would do any good for. That’s homosexuals.”[20] To many the ERA was seen as a social disruption, a weakening of families, and a sexual deviation. Legalizing homosexual marriage and adoption was too liberal of an idea for many of the more conservative states like North Carolina.

In the same pamphlet mentioned before, STOP ERA had a section called the “Mischief of ERA.”[21] This part of the pamphlet told how the ERA could have been dangerous to society.  For example the ERA would have been a big “power grab” by the Federal Government.  The Federal Government would have been in charge of marriage and divorce if the ERA had passed.[22] The second part of the ERA states that “The congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislations, the provisions of the first section.” [23] This was one of Senator Ervin’s main concerns. In the Chapel Hill Newspaper, Ervin was quoted as saying, “the amendment will substantially thwart the purpose of the constitution to create an indestructible union composed of indestructible States and reduce the states in large measure to powerless zeroes on the nation’s map.”[24] Not only did the ERA conflict with home life, but it also touched on the subject of who should have more rights, the state or the federal government.

Another controversial part of the ERA was the idea that it would eliminate any single- sex institutions, such as all- girl and all-boy schools. It would also do away with separate public bathrooms. [25] Once again the ERA would promote sexual behavior between men and women. Not only would it subject men and women to irresponsible behavior, but it would also affect women in the physical work place. For example, women who work in industry jobs would have to lift the same amount of weight as men, and women who worked in military service or police department would have to pass the same test of men, even if it is medically known that men are built stronger than women.[26] According to Phyllis Schlafly, if women are forced to pass the same tests as men, many women would not have the chance to have the same job opportunities as men. Also women would be subject to demotion once the amendment took effect because they could not meet the correct physical standard. [27]

Unlike the proponents of the ERA in North Carolina, most of the opponents of the ERA in North Carolina had never been politically active before. A survey done by Theodore S. Arrington and Patricia A. Kyle on the Equal Rights Amendment activists in North Carolina reported that more than half of the women who were actively opposed to the ERA in North Carolina were housewives, while most of the proponents of North Carolina had professional occupations.[28] They also found that most of the men who opposed the ERA in North Carolina had wives who stayed at home, while most men who supported the ERA had wives in professional jobs. When it came to religion, the opponents mostly belonged to major fundamentalist denominations, while the proponents belonged either to nonfundamentalist churches, or belonged to no church at all. It also was not a shock to find out that most of the opponents opposed abortion, and the supporters of the ERA supported abortion. There was no income difference between the two groups that responded to the survey. Most were married couples, and only two African- Americans responded to survey and both were supporters of the ERA. [29] One of the greatest differences between the opponents and the proponents was the fact that the opponent activists were much older than the proponents.[30]

 Housewives were the majority of women who opposed the ERA; the opponents also had the support of many women that belonged to the labor movement. Naomi McDaniel, president of Women Industry wrote a memo to her fellow workers on the dangers of the ERA. She explained that though the ERA says that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, it really means “equal compulsion,” which meant women were forced to do men’s work even if they were not physically capable.[31] McDaniel claimed that companies were using the ERA to get rid of women over the age of forty by assigning them jobs they could not physically do, thus making women quit “voluntarily,” which would lead them to be ineligible unemployment compensation.[32] McDaniel refers to the ERA as the TWERP Amendment, Terminate Women’s Extra Rights and Privileges.[33] Many women of the labor union fought hard for the regulations that protected them and with the ERA in effect it would take some of those privileges out, making it mandatory that they perform physically the same as men.  Since the 1920’s, this one issue split the working women; some believed the ERA would hurt women, while other working women felt the ERA would free women. [34]

STOP ERA Comes to North Carolina and Dorothy Slade

Many who opposed the ERA believed that the ERA would not promise equal rights or equal pay, that the ERA would hurt women more than promote them further in the world. According to Senator Ervin, there was a reason there is protections in our constitution for women, so they would not be discriminated against. If ERA was ratified, women would be subjected to failure and discrimination.[35] With all these reasons to oppose the ERA, Phyllis Schlafly began her crusade against the ERA. Schlafly started the grassroots organization, STOP ERA, with chapters in every state. STOP ERA was for women who opposed the ERA, and wanted to make sure it never got ratified. Schlafly realized that North Carolina already had a great leader for opposition who would not only help North Carolina but affect others nationwide, Senator Ervin. Although Senator Ervin was a powerful man, he still needed help to make sure North Carolina would not pass the ERA. Together Ervin and Schlafly nominated Ms. Dorothy Slade of Reidsville, N.C. to head up the STOP ERA chapter in North Carolina.[36]

Slade was a perfect candidate for the job. She was a member of the John Birch Society, a right wing group that could bring a lot of members to STOP ERA. She also worked in an industry job, American Tobacco Company of Reidsville, so she knew how hard manual labor was on a woman. She also had this “gray-haired school teacher” look about her, which made her loved by the press.[37] Ervin was the grandfather figure for North Carolina and she was the grandmother figure of the opposition to the ERA movement in North Carolina. Even though Slade look liked a “gray hair school teacher,” when she spoke she had “fiery zeal of a tent evangelist.”[38] Ordinary women like Slade who seemed so quiet and reserved were the ones that fought the hardest in North Carolina and won each time the ERA went through the General Assembly in North Carolina.  Even though Slade had been a part of the John Birch Society, many of the women who joined STOP ERA had never been politically active prior to the ERA and were typical homemakers. It took a perceived threat to the home to get these women fired up and ready to fight.

It was not easy for Slade to get the STOP ERA of North Carolina going. Even though Slade had the support of women from the John Birch Society and other women associated with organization like John Birch, only a dozen of women showed up to the first meeting.[39] The dozen that did show up brought names and addresses of other women who were interested in fighting against the ERA, but were scared, or not sure how to do it. Slade made sure that all the women left with a handful of packets that contained Senator Ervin’s speeches, Schlafly’s report and instruction on how to defeat ratification. This was Slade’s main way of getting the word out. Anyone who seemed remotely interesting in defeating the ratification got this packet.

What is amazing about Slade and this chapter of STOP ERA is the fact they had little to no money.  Slade was accused by her opponents of being funded by the John Birch Society.  Slade never denied her relations with John Birch Society; she did come back quickly, by jokingly saying, “I wish I did have some outside money.”[40] The fact is that from the beginning of the STOP ERA, they were lucky if they had more than twenty-five dollars. Slade was using her own money to pay for mailing.[41] In many letters Slade wrote to members of STOP ERA, she expressed how important it was for them to continue their financial contribution, “please accept my sincere thanks, we would not have had money for postage for this mailing ($1400.00) if some of our friends had not had a fund raising effort on our behalf.”[42] In another letter, Slade listed the counties that contributed twenty-five dollars every six months, as she did in her last letter; she again included how much it cost to send out the postage, $700.[43] Due to the lack of funds, STOP ERA could not afford elaborate lobbying, most of the women relied on old-fashioned voter appeals.

Since most of the women who opposed the ERA had never been politically active before, Slade put in her STOP ERA packets twenty ways they could help stop the ERA. The first way was to write and call their state senators and state representatives and ask them to vote against the Equal Rights Amendment. She went as far as giving them the address and phone numbers of all the senators and representatives in North Carolina.[44] This tactic was their strongest weapon; over the ten year run of the ERA in North Carolina’s General Assembly, these women never stopped writing to the their senators and representatives. Slade also told them to keep a copy of letters they wrote and any responses they got back. Slade also told them to write other senators or representatives and, that they should be concerned with other States as well as North Carolina.[45] A typical letter would say, “We, the wives and working women, need you, dear senators and representatives to protect us. We think this is the man’s responsibility, and we are dearly hoping you will vote NO on ERA.”[46] Though the wording may have not directly caused them to win votes from the legislators, it did disgust the women who were for the ERA since it fed into the paternalistic world they were fighting so hard to change. Besides writing to senators and legislators, Slade encourage women to contribute and continue contributing money to STOP ERA organization. Without their money STOP ERA would have no money. She also told them to make a list of at least ten people and send them a packet like the one she sent them. In those packets she asked them to circulate petition to send to senators and representatives.[47]

Slade encouraged them to write to editors of various newspapers and explain the problems with the ERA.  Many women did this, if the newspaper editor was for the ERA, they would refuse to acknowledge their letter. One editorial in the  Raleigh News and Observer, “ERA Foes’ Shabby Tactics” slander Senator Ervin and the opponents of the ERA in North Carolina for relying so heavily on Ervin to fight their battle in the North Carolina General Assembly. It goes on to say that anyone who resorts to these tactics show their “bankruptcy, intellectual and ethical.”[48] Many were outraged by this article and wrote to the editor in response. The editor chose to publish letters that supported her ideas; she refused to publish the ones that were outraged by her response. Muriel Daniels and Lina Burrus of Manteo, North Carolina wrote to the editor explaining how wrong it was to dishonor such an honorable man as Senator Ervin.[49] When the editor refused to publish their response, Muriel Daniels’ husband wrote Senator Ervin and sent him a copy of the letter that Muriel and Lina wrote to the editor. In return Senator Ervin sent the editor, Kay Horner, a copy of his speech to Legislator, on the problems of the ERA and expressed how upset these women were when the letter was not published.[50]

Letters were not the only way these women communicated. Slade told them to take opportunity to go to any “Open Mike” programs even if it meant going to Raleigh. She told them to makes plans to go to Raleigh as much as they could. She also encouraged women to caravan in buses to Raleigh, “There is something about a bus load of people which impresses politicians more than just a several cars!”[51]

 Slade reminded the women to always to act like ladies, for if they acted any less they would show that they wanted a unisex society. Slade also told them that they had to keep praying if they wanted to win, “Our victories in the past have been the Lord’s victories; our victories in the future will be His!”[52] Another way women used their “homemaker” image to lobby was baking loaves of bread for the legislators with cards that said, “To the Breadwinners from the Breadmakers.” This was to remind the legislators that voting against the ERA meant voting against changing gender roles.[53] The opponents’ strongest lobbying force was having Senator Ervin, who became their voice in North Carolina’s General Assembly.

Senator Ervin and His Role in the Fight Against the ERA:

Senator Ervin became known for his resistance to the Civil Rights movement as he and other Southern legislators came up with the Southern Manifesto, which stated that they would use any lawful means to reverse any laws that desegregated the South.[54] Though he would eventually lose the battle and the South would desegregate, Ervin learned his lessons about on what he did wrong, so when it came to Equal Rights Amendment, Ervin made sure he didn’t lose. By 1972, Senator Ervin was ready to end his career in politics, and then the ERA was passed. After he retired from senate, he would not leave the world of politics until the ERA had been defeated

Senator Ervin felt that women were well protected in the constitution by the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and the Civil Rights Acts; indeed he felt that these amendments took away any form of discrimination women would face in the work place and at home.  Senator Ervin felt women were crazy if they wanted to give up these protections. In one of his many speeches against the ERA, Ervin claimed:

If you want to persuade me that women want to be drafted and sent out like the men to face bullets of the enemy and to have their fair forms blasted into fragments by the enemy’s bombs, you are going to have to send some of the sweet young things within the draft age up here to persuade me on that point.[55]

Senator Ervin thought he was keeping women safe, which was why opponents of the ERA, referred to him as “American Father”, while the proponents of the ERA saw him as a conservative “pig.” [56]

Phyllis Schlafly did not even have to ask Senator Ervin to join in the fight; Ervin was already trying to fix the Equal Rights Amendment by adding the “Ervin Amendments” before the ERA was passed by Congress in 1972. Though the ERA passed without the “Ervin Amendments” and Senator Ervin had already retired from the Senate, he still continued to fight against the ERA. Just like the women of North Carolina, he began writing to his fellow legislators on why they should vote against the ERA. Ervin knew he was for the most part respected by his fellow colleagues and greatly respected in his home state of North Carolina, thus Legislators would more than likely read anything he sent them. Ervin even included in his letters an eighteen page essay/proposal called, “Why the Equal Rights Amendment Should Be Rejected, that starts, “I love my daughters, and my granddaughters. If I had any sound reason for believing that the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment would improve the lot of any of them one iota, I would advocate its ratification.”[57]  Senator Ervin goes on to explain how the ERA would only be more harmful than helpful to women. He also explains in great detail how the courts and congress have made sure that women are treated fairly. He claimed that the only ones who wanted the ERA to pass were men who wanted to take of advantage of having no more protection and women who had professional jobs. “. As consequences, the Amendment imperils the welfare of wives and mothers and their children and the highest interest of society itself.” [58]  Senator Ervin made a point to be the protector for all wives, mother, and their children.

A protector is what these women who opposed the ERA sought in Ervin. Many of the women turned to him for guidance and knowledge about the harm of the ERA. Shelley Barrier, a political science major at UNCC, wrote to him after the 1977 defeat of the ERA in North Carolina and was worried about what would happen when the ERA came up again in 1979. Barrier asked Ervin for all the information he could give her so she could educate herself and her fellow classmates. Barrier ended by saying, “You truly are one of the American Heroes of our day.”[59] Even the youth of North Carolina sought out his knowledge. Barrier was not the only one who wrote to Ervin; letter after letter out of Senator Ervin’s collection asked for his advice and knowledge on the ERA. Ervin was determined to do all he could to stop the ERA.

The ERA Goes to the North Carolina General Assembly More than Once

 The ERA passed in Congress in 1972 and had ten years to be ratified by the states. Some states voted on the ERA every year, some every other year. North Carolina voted on the ERA every other year. The first year the General Assembly voted on the ERA in North Carolina was 1973. Though the ERA was rejected by a 37-23 vote, this election was a learning ground for both the opponents and proponents of the ERA.[60] It would not always be such an easy victory for the opponents of the ERA.

When the bill was first introduced into the General Assembly in 1973, the opponents were worried because not only did the governor of North Carolina, James E. Holshouser support the ERA, so did the states’ leading newspaper, The Raleigh News & Observer also support it. The editor of the  Raleigh News & Observer, wrote about the opponents of the ERA:

What else does the anti ERA crowd have to offer? Little children, busloads of them plucked from their classrooms and trucked off to Raleigh to march around on the cold concrete before the legislative building. Some zealots have no shame.[61]

 Even though the anti-ERA were painted as extreme activist they did not let this deter them. The opponents had already started sending opposition material to the representatives long before the ERA was introduced. Opponents also showed up in busloads wearing STOP ERA badges with pink diaper pins at the Legislative offices running in and out of the offices with Bibles asking the Legislators if they could pray for them, swearing that “women weren’t meant by the Lord to be Equal.”[62]

The proponents decided the best way to get ratification was to have famous women like Betty Friedan, the founder of NOW and NWPC, and Elizabeth Koontz. Koontz was an African- American who was from North Carolina and was the head of the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor. Together Koontz and Friedan decided the best way to discredit their opponents was to make accusations that they had outside money and a strong political force in North Carolina.[63] All this did was add fuel to the fire and made the opponents more determined to fight.

Another factor that played into the ERA being denied in 1973 was the Senate Constitutional Amendments Committee’s public hearing. Robert E. Lee, a law professor at Wake Forest University, had been asked to speak as a disinterested expert. However, he came across as an opponent. He claimed that that “There was no better place than North Carolina for women to be protected under the law, and that all the ERA would do was take those protections away.” Lee also pointed out that the ERA would take away the states governing powers and the Supreme Court would have more power over North Carolina.[64] Not only did the opponents have Lee’s testimony favoring them, but Phyllis Schlafly also read a letter from Justice Susie Marshall Sharp expressing that she shared the same views as Samuel Ervin on the ERA. Having the support of Sharp and Ervin, two people most respected by members of the North Carolina General Assembly gave the opponents an upper hand. It was clear that the Senate Constitutional Amendments Committee was over and the supporters of the ERA had lost.

By 1975, the ERA would return to the General Assembly for its second vote; many things had changed. Opponents of the ERA realized that they had undermined the strength of the proponents. Supporters of the ERA realized that they needed more than experts and two women doing all the necessary lobbying. By 1974 proponents began researching and educating the public on the benefits of the ERA. The one huge problem for the proponent of the ERA was the fact that the two organizations that supported the ERA, NOW and ERAmerica, could not agree on anything.[65] With this tension it was hard for the ERA supporters to get organized when they could not agree on strategy, tactics, or issues.  They realized after the 1973 vote that they needed to be more organized and they proceeded to send out packets just like opponents did. By now their support base had grown to nurses, secretaries, and federally- employed women. [66]

Even though the opponents had a great victory in 1973; they knew that proponents would come back even stronger. By October 1973, Slade had sent every member of NC General Assembly STOP ERA material. By December of 1973, the organization North Carolinians Against the ERA (NCAERA) had formed as a support group to help the STOP ERA chapter in North Carolina. They could focus now on individual counties rather than the entire state like STOP ERA did. By now the opponents were not only targeting legislators, but also going to shopping malls, church meeting, civic centers, and mills-anywhere they could reach out to people.

This time when the ERA was introduced, opponents proposed a public referendum on the ERA. They had the support of democrat A. Hartwell Campbell who made it a point to do all he could to stop the ERA. Campbell then divided up subcommittees to study the effect of the ERA on existing North Carolina laws. He decided that on March 4, 1975 they would have a public hearing where supporters of the ERA could speak, and then a week later opponents and then Senator Ervin would have an extra session to himself. Meanwhile the subcommittee studying the effects of the ERA on North Carolina’s law reported back that there would be no serious impact on the state government. The opponents left the public hearing again giving all the members of the General Assembly home- baked loaf of bread. The proponents came back with a cocktail party for the entire General Assembly.[67] 

It seemed like the proponents had won this battle; a public poll showed that fifty-eight percent supported the ERA and twenty four percent were against. On a roll call vote there was an even tie. Yet, by April 16, 1975, opponents had another victory, with a vote of 57-62. [68]

Since the opponents won by a small margin, they knew that they had to step up their fight, while the proponents realized how close they had come. With the ERA coming up again for a third time in 1977, both sides had to step up their game. This time proponents shifted to a new strategy by focusing on electing Legislators committed to supporting the ERA. They also nominated Reverend Maria Blissed from Asheboro, NC as their spokesperson. Bliss was a great contender for the supporters; she was religious and very matronly. Bliss became the ERA supporters “Slade”. Supporters also had the backing of North Carolina’s new governor, Jim Hunt. Governor Hunt made it his personal agenda to get the ERA passed. However, Senator Ervin made it a point to write to Governor Hunt and express his views on the ERA. In the letter Ervin asked Governor Hunt to consider three points about the ERA:

Whether the ERA will be a curse or a blessing for North Carolina and the nation, whether it is wise to transfer legislators ultimate power to enact all laws regulating the rights and responsibilities of all men and women in North Carolina and America, and whether it is wise to transfer from the courts of North Carolina and the courts of the other 49 states to the Supreme Court of the United States and the other federal courts and final power to determine the constitutional validity of every federal and state law regulating the rights and responsibilities of all the men and women in North Carolina and America.[69]

 

 Ervin closed the letter to Governor Hunt by letting him know that he also was a long time supporter and voter of the Democratic Party.[70] By Senator Ervin reminding Governor Hunt that he too was a Democrat, he was reminding Hunt that being for the ERA, Hunt was turning his back on his party.

Even though the governor of North Carolina supported the ERA, the opponents would not be discourage and would continue to fight even harder. They now had another strong supporter, Senator Jessie Helms from North Carolina. Senator Helms went as far as having Phyllis Schlafly as the key speaker at the spring convention of 1976, where she could spread the word of the “fraud of the ERA.”  Yet the opponents had a set back- Indiana had just ratified, the first state in two years to ratify. Opponents knew if North Carolina ratified the ERA, they would begin to lose their momentum. They also realized that because the governor of North Carolina and the president of United States supported the ERA they had an especially tough fight. Schlafly wrote Ervin begging for his help,

Please in the name of thousands of American women who have followed your leadership, who have gone up and down their local communities repeating the arguments you so brilliantly developed in the U.S. Senate, who know you are right, and who have worked so very hard for five years – I am begging you to pull out all the stops in order to save us in our hour of need.[71]

 Ervin responded by sending every Legislator an eighteen page essay, “Why the Equal Rights Amendment Should be Rejected,” to explain the dangers of the ERA. This was not enough for Schlafly; she organized a rally at Dorton Arena, in Raleigh for February 22, 1977. At the rally Schlafly and Senator Ervin were the key speakers. From there they moved the rally to the public hearing at the Legislative building.[72] Over fifteen hundred people showed up to rally, ready to show that they did not support the ERA. This must have been very effective, because once again the opposition won with a vote of 26-24.[73] Even though it was another close call, they had won. Since the rally, they had recruited more people willing to fight another round of the ERA going through General Assembly.  Alfred and Myrtle Anderson of Stedman, North Carolina wrote to Ervin expressing how much his speech at the rally really spoke to them, “It was your dynamic speech however that put the lid on the coffin of the ERA in North Carolina”.[74] 

      It was now 1979, and the ERA was up once again in North Carolina’s General Assembly. Both sides had grown in support and the proponents of the ERA knew that this election they had to win, since they had lost Oklahoma, Florida, and Indiana. North Carolina became the wild card for both groups. This time proponents followed the lead of opponents in writing letters to the Legislation, and they too had strong spokespersons, Governor Hunt and his wife Carolyn Hunt. Both groups did not give up on making sure legislators knew how they felt.  Opponents of the ERA knew how to make more of a scene. This time on the first day that the ERA came up in Legislation, busloads of church leaders from all over North Carolina came bearing Bibles, red rosebuds, and placards, wearing STOP ERA badges, and storming into the Legislative Building. They passed by proponents wearing pink buttons that said, “Love is Ratifying the ERA.”[75] Needless to say the church leaders made more of an influence. During the hearing each day, opponents had children, elderly women, housewives, and of course Senator Ervin to represent the opponents. Yet, once again the polls showed that a majority favored the ERA and it looked like they might win. The ERA never made it to the floor since a special committee meeting had been held without notifying all the members. Since they forgot this rule, the ERA was automatically denied. [76] If it was not for this mistake the ERA might have been ratified.

      The proponents of the ERA were angered by what had happen in 1979. They were determined to win the last round in 1981. As usual proponents felt that they needed to rearrange their lobbying style. Governor Jim Hunt hired Betty McClaim to head the lobbying for ERA.  McClaim was sharp and ruthless; she still could not compete with the STOP ERA activists. On the day that Legislators met, over five thousand anti-ERA activist showed up, once again bearing Bibles and STOP ERA badges, and a new slogan, “ERA IS NOT IN MY BAG.” Proponents were supposed to have a rally on opening day of legislation but they decided to cancel it to save money on lobbying.  No matter how much they spent in lobbying, when the ERA came up to vote, it was rejected by 27-23 vote.[77]  Proponents of the ERA tried to get an extension on the ERA, but it was buried in North Carolina in 1981 and nationwide in 1982.

Why the ERA Failed, and the Future of the ERA

      There are many reasons why the ERA failed. Many supporters of the ERA blamed it on the opponents of the ERA, claiming that because of political affiliation and the support of Christian- right winged organization they were able to financially defeat the ERA. Proponents believed that opponents lied and “screamed the amendment to death.”[78] Opponents “screamed” about how if the ERA passed that it would destroy the family unit by allowing the draft, abortion, homosexual marriage, and even unisex bathrooms. Not only did they spread fear, but the ERA grabbed the attention of many women who had not been politically active before. These women fought hard because they believed the ERA threatened the one thing that meant the world to them, their family.

      The proponents of the ERA main failure was they under estimated how strong these so-called ordinary women were.  Proponents were shocked they lost the first time the ERA was introduced into North Carolina’s General Assembly. Looking back later they realized that they had left the lobbying up to experts and women who already had too many obligations to just concentrate on the ERA. Unlike the opponents, they had not thought about using everyday women to help fight for the ERA. It was the ordinary women, like those in North Carolina who helped the ERA to fail. Due to these ordinary women’s successful campaigning, the ERA may never have a chance again.

      It is uncertain what the future holds for the ERA. For the ERA to be even considered again, it would have to pass Congress first, and then once again thirty-eight out of fifty states would have to approve it. By the early eighties there was a significant increase in opposition to the ERA. Many had changed from no opinion to opposing the ERA. Also party lines changed, and Democrats who once opposed the ERA, many now support it while it was now the Republicans who opposed the ERA.[79] Further more by 1981 the ERA had become a partisan issue. According to Jane Mansbridge the author of, Why We Lost the ERA, if it becomes a partisan issue the chances ERA will pass are minimal.[80]  In 1984, Dorothy Slade wrote to all the STOP ERA people in North Carolina to encourage them not to stop fighting even if the ERA was apparently dead:

I would like to tell you that the ERA is dead, but that would not be true. The ERA will be dead only so long as our people continue to educate the pubic, especially the young people, as to what the ERA really is and what will do and as long as we elect legislators and government officials who will oppose it.[81]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

If it had not of been for the coalition of Senator Ervin and ordinary women of North Carolina, the ERA might have not failed. With their determination, the ERA failed five times in North Carolina’s General Assembly, even against the public polls that favored the ERA. Senator Ervin and these women never stopped lobbying and campaigning. Unlike the proponents of the ERA they never changed their focus; they always stayed constant, focusing on protecting the family unit. North Carolina became a nationwide example, of how a southern state and political involvement of “ordinary” women can make a huge impact.

 


 

 

[1] Jane J. Mansbridge, Why We Lost the ERA (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 1.

[2] Phyllis Schlafly, “A Short History of the ERA,” 1986, article on her website http://www.eagleforum.org/psr/1986/sept86/psrsep86.html

[3] Schlafly, “Short History.

[4] Schlafly, “Short History.”

[5] Mansbridge, 12.

[6] Phyllis Schlafly to Senator Samuel Ervin, Jr., 20 January 1977, folder 885, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[7] Birch Bay, “PRO: The Question of the Equal Rights,” Congressional Digest, June- July 1977, 170.

[8] Donald G. Mathews and Jane Sherron Dehart, Sex, Gender, and the Politics of the ERA: A State and the Nation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 71.

[9] Mansbridge, 8.

[10] Ms. Wanda Hamilton to Senator Samuel Ervin, JR., 12 July 1983, folder 899, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[11] Dorothy Slade, “The Fraud of the ERA,” 24 January 1977, pamphlet, folder 662, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[12] Slade, “The Fraud of the ERA,” folder 662.

[13] Slade, “The Fraud of the ERA,” folder 662.

[14] Slade, “The Fraud of the ERA,” folder 662.

[15] Mathews and De Hart, 159.

[16] Mansbridge, 127.

[17] Slade, “The Fraud of the ERA,” folder 662.

[18] Elizabeth Carter Harrison Wshite to Senator Samuel Ervin, JR., 24 February 1977, folder 885, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[19] Emmet E. Owen to Senator Samuel Ervin, JR., 27 January 1977, folder 885, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[20] Phyllis Schlafly, The Power of the Positive Woman (New York: Arlington House Publisher, 1977), 92.

[21] Slade, “The Fraud of the ERA,” folder 662.

[22] Slade, “The Fraud of the ERA,” folder 662.

[23] Complete Text of the Equal Right Amendment; see the first page of this paper.

[24] Richard D. Rust, “ERA Harbors Unknown Dangers,” The Chapel Hill Newspaper, February 11, 1979, sec C.

[25] Slade, “The Fraud of the ERA,” folder 662.

[26] Slade, “The Fraud of the ERA,” folder 662.

[27]Schlafly, The Power of the Positive Woman, 104-105.

[28] Theodore S. Arrington and Patricia A. Kyle, “Equal Rights Amendment Activists in North Carolina,” Signs, no 3 (1978): 673. This source I have to be careful with, due to the fact that they had a low rate of returns of the survey, so they had to make general assumptions based on what returns they received.

[29] Arrington and Kyle, 673- 674.

[30] Arrington and Kyle, 673.

[31] Naomi McDaniel, “The Real World of the Working Woman,” year unknown, folder 901, broadsheet, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[32] McDaniel, “The Real World of the Working Women.”

[33] McDaniel,” The Real World of the Working Women."

[34] Kathryn Kish Sklar, “Why Were Most Politically Active Women Opposed to the ERA in the 1920s?” in Rights of Passage: Past and Future of the ERA, ed. Joan Hoff-Wilson (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 25-35.

[35] Senator Samuel Ervin, JR., “Why the Equal Rights Amendment Should be Rejected,” 24 January 1977, unpublished manuscript Ervin wrote to his legislative colleagues, folder 885, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, 18.

[36] Mathews and De Hart, 61.

[37]Mathews and De Hart, 62.

[38] Mathews and De Hart, 62.

[39] Mathews and De Hart, 60.

[40] Matthews and De Hart, 61.

[41] Matthews and De Hart, 62.

[42] Dorothy Slade to All STOP ERA People, April 1980, folder 897, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[43] Dorothy Slade to STOP ERA Worker, 29 July 1977, folder 889, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” o

[44] Dorothy Slade, “What You Can Do TO Help STOP ERA,” June 1976, newsletter to STOP ERA members, folder 884, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[45] Slade, “What You Can Do To Help STOP ERA.”

[46] Donald T. Critchlow, Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 224-225.

[47] Slade, “What You Can Do To Help STOP ERA.”

[48] Kay Horner, “ERA Foes’ Shabby Tactics” The News and Observer, February 15, 1979, sec.A.

[49]Muriel Daniels and Lina Burrus, letter to the Editor of The News and Observer, 21 February 1979, folder 895, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[50] Senator Samuel Ervin to Kay Horner, 28 February 1979, folder 895, “Ervin. Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[51] Slade, “What You Can Do To Help STOP ERA.”

[52] Slade, “What You Can Do To Help STOP ERA.”

[53] Mathews and De Hart, 70.

[54] Clancy, 173-175.

[55] Clancy, 241.

[56] Clancy, 241.

[57] Senator Samuel Ervin, JR., “Why the Equal Rights Amendment Should be Rejected,” 1.

[58] Senator Samuel Ervin, JR., “Why the Equal Rights Amendment Should be Rejected,” 17-18.

[59] Shelley Barrier to Senator Samuel Ervin, 1977, folder889, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[60] Mathews and De Hart, 64.

[61] Horner, “ERA Foes’ Shabby Tactics.”

[62] Mathews and De Hart, 61.

[63] Mathews and De Hart, 62.

[64] Mathews and De Hart, 61.

[65] Critchlow, 227.

[66] Mathews and De Hart, 66.

[67] Mathews and De Hart, 69.

[68] Mathews and De Hart, 73.

[69] Senator Samuel Ervin to James B. Hunt, Jr., 11 August 1978, folder 886, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[70] Ervin to Hunt, 11 August 1978.

[71] Phyllis Schlafly to Senator Samuel Ervin, JR., 20 January 1977, folder 885, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

[72] Phyllis Schlafly, “North Carolina Rally Against the ERA”, February 1977, a flyer for the rally, folder 885, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, “Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[73]Mathews and De Hart, 89.

[74] Alfred and Myrtle Anderson to Senator Ervin, 21 March 1977, folder 885, “Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

[75]Mathews and De Hart, 101.

[76] Mathews and De Hart, 103.

[77] Mathews and De Hart, 119.

 

[78] Jane Dehart-Matthews and Donald Matthews, “The Cultural Politics of the ERA’s Defeat” in Rights of Passage: Past and Future of the ERA, ed. Joan Hoff-Wilson (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 46.

[79]Mansbridge, 18-19.

[80] Mansbridge, 19.

[81] Dorothy Slade to All STOP ERA people, 30 April 1984, folder 899, “Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers,” Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Primary Sources:

 

Anderson, Alfred and Myrtle to Senator Ervin, 21 March 1977, folder 885, Ervin, Samuel J., Private Papers, Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

Arrington, Theodore S. and Patricia A. Kyle, “Equal Rights Amendment Activists in  North Carolina” Signs, no3 (1978).

 

Barrie, Shelley to Senator Samuel Ervin, 1977, folder 889, Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

Bay, Birch, “Pro: the Question of Equal Rights”, Congressional Digest, June-July 1977.

 

Daniels, Muriel and Lina Burns to the Editor of The News and Observer, 21 February 1979, folder 895, Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, Southern Historical  Collection

            of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

Ervin, Samuel, Jr. to Kay Horner, 28 February 1979, folder 895, Ervin, Samuel J. Papers, Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

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-----, “Why the Equal Rights Amendment Should Be Rejected” 24 January 1977, unpublished manuscript, folder 885, Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, south

            Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

Hamilton, Wanda to Samuel Ervin, Jr., 12 July 1983, folder 889, Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

Horner, Kay, “ERA foes’ shabby tactics”, The News and Observer, 21 February 1979, sec A.

 

McDaniel, Naomi, “the Real World of the Working Woman”, year unknown, broadsheet, folder 901, Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, Southern Historical Collection of

            Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

Owen, Emmet to Senator Samuel Ervin, Jr., 24 February 1977, folder 885, Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill,

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Rust, Richard, “ERA Harbors Unknown Dangers”, The Chapel Hill Newspaper, 11 February 1979, sec C.

 

Schlafly,Phyllis to Samuel Ervin, Jr., 20 January 1977,folder 885, Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

-----, “North Carolina Rally against the ERA”, February 1977, a flyer on the Rally, folder 885, Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, Southern Historical Collection

            of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

-----. The Power of the Positive Woman. New York: Arlington House Publisher, 1977.

 

-----.  A Short History of the ERA. 1986.

            http://www.eagleforum.org/psr/1986/sept86/psrep86.html.

 

Slade, Dorothy. “The fraud of the ERA”, 24 January 1977, pamphlet, folder 662. Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill,

            Chapel Hill.

 

----- to STOP ERA workers, 29 July 1977, folder 889, Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

----- to All Stop ERA People, April 1980, folder 897, Ervin, Samuel J .Private Papers, Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

-----. “What You Can Do To Help STOP ERA, June 1976, newsletter, folder 884, Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, Southern Historical Collection of Chapel

            Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

----- to All STOP ERA people, 30 April 1984, folder 899, Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, Southern Historical Collection of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill.

 

Wshite,Elizabeth Carter Harrison Wshite to Senator Samuel Ervin, Jr., 24 February 1977, Folder 885, Ervin, Samuel J. Private Papers, Southern Historical Collection

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Secondary Sources:

 

Clancy, Paul R. Just A Country Lawyer, A Biography of Senator Sam Ervin. Indiana: University Press, 1974.

 

Critchlow, Donald T. Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.

 

Hoff-Wilson, Joan, ed. Rights of Passage: The past and Future of the ERA. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

 

Mansbridge, Jane J. Why We Lost the ERA. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986. Mathews, Donald G. and Jane Sherron De Hart. Sex, Gender, and the Politics of

              ERA: A State and the Nation. New York: Oxford Press, 1990.