Women’s History Month had its origins in the early 1900s with the declaration of one global day per year, International Women’s Day on March 8, to celebrate the social, political, economic and cultural achievements of women and to highlight the inequalities that still plague women’s full emancipation.
In 1981, Congress expanded recognition of women to one whole week, “Women’s History Week.” And since 1995, presidents have issued annual proclamations designating the entire month of March as “Women’s History Month.”
At what point will we stop celebrating a day, a week or month to acknowledge the contributions women make every day? Women should simply be included equally in our history.
The fact that there is no formal guarantee of sex equality in our Constitution is a glaring omission that needs immediate rectification. Every other democracy in the world has some provision of sex equality in their founding document, but not the United States.
Congress has plenary power to declare that all the requirements to adopt the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as the 28th Amendment have been achieved. Congress also has the power to create time limits, delete them or simply ignore them.
Never in the history of this country has an amendment to the Constitution, having achieved all constitutional requirements set out by Article V, that is adopted by two-thirds of Congress and ratified by three-fourths of states, been stopped in its tracks by an arbitrary time limit until women’s rights were on the docket.
The House chose last year to remove the time limit on the ERA. And now the Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to act on companion language to highlight the 50th anniversary of the Senate’s final passage of the amendment.
The ERA is spectacularly contemporaneous. Today women are disproportionally disadvantaged by the lack of paid family leave and dearth of affordable childcare; they are a majority of workers paid at or below minimum wage; women on average make 79 cents to a man’s dollar, a wage gap that is much more severe for Black, Indigenous, Latina, Asian, women of color and disabled women; two-thirds of seniors living below the poverty level are women; and today women fight and die for their country and still don’t have equal rights. These inequities have only been exacerbated by the effects of the COVID pandemic.
Some opponents worry about states recissions. Just look to the 14th & 15th Amendments for examples of states attempting to rescind and being turned back by the Supreme Court. No recissions have ever been recognized by the courts.
This week in his Women’s History Month Proclamation, President Biden said, “The Congress sent the Equal Rights Amendment to the States for ratification 50 years ago and it is long past time that the principle of women’s equality should be enshrined in our Constitution.” ERA Minnesota, an organization I founded in 2014, agrees. Pity he didn’t mention it in his list of priorities in his State of the Union Address.
Here in Minnesota, we have legislation to add an ERA to our state constitution. It is sailing through the Minnesota House, but the bottleneck for the past several years has been Minnesota Senate leadership. Minnesota is part of a minority of states that still do not recognize gender equality in their state constitutions.
We’re simply asking to let the people vote on whether to add gender equality into our state constitution.
This International Women’s Day, in honor of Women’s History Month, ERA Minnesota will be presenting a petition to Minnesota Senate leaders called “Minnesotans for Equality.” Let the people vote.
Help us unblock the bottleneck. Sign on to the petition at www.eramn.org.
Former state representative Betty Folliard is a nationally known thought leader, women’s rights advocate, and founder of ERA Minnesota, an organization of thousands of activists and entities dedicated to adding an ERA into our state and national constitutions.