The journey to pass the ERA

White women

White women got the right to vote in 1920. It has taken many of them awhile to vote in their own best interest. 

We Black women did not get the right to vote when white women did, but we quickly learned the importance of voting in our best interest. Since we first gained the right to vote at all, we have struggled to have the right to vote unhindered.

That hasn’t happened yet through no fault of our own. 

There’s constantly somebody wanting to water down our ability to vote by closing polling places for us to vote, by making it difficult to register to vote, by deleting names from voter registration rolls for innocuous reasons. 

Black women know the struggle 

We, Black women, have always had to struggle for whatever we’ve been able to achieve, but we persist. When we win a victory, it’s usually a gain for all people. 

Through the years, we’ve struggled for something as simple as equal rights for all without regard to sex or race or economic status in life. 

When we didn’t have enough courageous elected officials to make that happen, we didn’t give up. We rallied. We protested. We hoped, and often we begged our white sisters to vote with us to elect people who were more likely to vote for things like the Equal Rights Amendment. 

We continued to be told that if only suburban women (meaning white women because we’re called urban women) would vote like Black women, we could get the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) passed. Well, we’ve kept on working, and finally our suburban sisters saw the light!

Unfortunately, year after year, many suburban women voted to elect candidates they knew would vote against their best interests.

So often, we came up empty on an ERA. Last night, it looks like suburban (white women) finally get it the we can pass the ERA and any other amendment we wish to pass. 

I’m still nervous about passing ERA, but one thing is clear, Virginia gave us hope with the victories in their election of November 5, 2019!

 We need that one state to clear a hurdle that has stood in the way of women having equal rights. Another way of putting that is to say we will not be discriminated against just because we are women! 

Nearing the finish line 

The ERA has taken a long way around passage, but we are so close now! The amendment was first offered in 1972. 

We need 38 states to ratify it to become law, but somehow because the wrong people were constantly elected, or they were re-elected it took us from 1972 to 1977 to get to 35 of the 38 required states to become law.

That vote of 35 was won on a bi-partisan basis. We then got to 36 by a vote from Indiana. That vote came in 1977 and not withstanding that victory, we’ve waited for years to get another vote. 

The vote in Virginia has brought us new momentum not only for ERA, but also for gun control, and justice for all—especially for immigrant children. 

Stick together

If we want equality for the young women coming behind us, it’s our duty to make it happen. 

If we truly want an Equal Rights Amendment, then all of our sisters – Black, Brown, Yellow, Red and White – will stick together to continue registering more voters. 

Planning more get-out-the-vote efforts and helping reluctant people understand the importance of every vote, so that in 2020, we can not only get the long-awaited ERA, but we can also get more attention on climate change, education, improved health care, justice for all and respect not only for ourselves, but also for our children and our nation.


Dr. E. Faye Williams is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. Contact her via www.nationalcongressbw.org.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you so much for sharing my articles with your readers. I sometimes hear from them, and I am pleased to engage in further discussions with them. I invite your sister readers to join the National Congress of Black Women and form a chapter in your area.

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