Search the Bulletin

Alice Paul and the Equal Rights Amendment

The article “Swarthmore Says” (October 2008 Bulletin) inaccurately attributes the 1972 text of the Equal Rights Amendment to Alice Paul (Class of 1905). The text of the original Equal Rights Amendment, as written by Paul in 1923, was “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

The text of the Equal Rights Amendment, sent to the states for ratification in 1972 by the 92nd Congress, reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

The chief architect of this revised language was then-Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC), who had been the chief opponent of the Paul ERA in the Senate, and who managed to convince ERA supporters that the revision was necessary to getting Senate approval.

Many ERA supporters suspect Ervin knew exactly what he was doing; that is, he was pretty sure his language would give ERA opponents more leverage. Hindsight is always 20–20, and one doesn’t know if Paul’s original language would have done any better in the deep South and Mormon West where the ERA did not pass. In Illinois, the opposition was led by the insurance industry, but that’s another story.

Gerald Blum ’64
Annandale, Va.

One Response to “Alice Paul and the Equal Rights Amendment”

  1. Blum mentions in this letter that the insurance industry led opposition to the ERA in Illinois. Is there a source for this information?