Equal Rights Amendment Collection

This collection documents the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution and the passage of the Washington State Equal Rights Amendment.

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

These words are at the core of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which passed both houses of Congress and was sent to the states for ratification on March 22, 1972. This process, which required at least 38 states to ratify the amendment within seven years, triggered a long and sometimes difficult struggle between ERA supporters and those who hoped to block its passage. Despite a quick start, the pace of ratification soon slowed, and the requisite number of states was not achieved by the deadline nor during a 39-month extension authorized by Congress.

In Washington, a state equal rights amendment, HJR61, was narrowly approved by voters in November 1972 prior to ratification of the federal amendment. Anti-ERA groups mounted a strong campaign to convince legislators and voters of the dangers that the amendment posed for the protection of both women and family values. Despite their efforts, the federal ERA was ratified in 1973, although movements for rescission began almost immediately. Washington never rescinded its ratification, but organized opposition led to a confrontation between pro-ERA and anti-ERA forces at the Ellensburg International Women’s Year Conference in July 1977 and ultimately brought about the demise of the Washington State Women’s Council.