TEXT ON SCREEN: 1977
ARCHIVAL (PRO-LIFE RALLY, 11-19-77):PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: We reject the anti-family goals of the Equal Rights Amendment. The American women do not want abortion. They do not want lesbian privileges and they do not want universal childcare in the hands of the government.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: I just took on the whole feminist movement.
CATHERINE HILL: Young people may never have heard of the ERA. And at the same time, the issues that the ERA was meant to address are still on our lips today.
GLORIA STEINEM: Its delightful to know in the Constitution that all men are created equal. But, hello?
ARCHIVAL:Women are no longer Miss or Mrs. but Ms. Capital M., small S., period.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 12-3-76):WALTER CRONKITE: So many women are starting to work these days its being billed as the most significant social development of the century.
NARRATION: As the role of women was changing in the 1970s, a campaign to pass the Equal Rights Amendment began in earnest.
As proposed it read: equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 11-15-70):DAVID SCHUMACHER: The equal rights amendment would strike down all state laws that discriminate against women, in the home, in the schools on the job.
ELEANOR SMEAL (PRESIDENT, FEMINIST MAJORITY FOUNDATION, FORMER PRESIDENT, NOW): People would say, Well, why should women get equal pay? We were still fighting for even the concept that women should get equal pay. They used to laugh at us, saying, Women dont want to be doctors. They want to marry one. Right?
NARRATION: Eleanor Smeal helped lead the effort to pass the ERA. The amendment didnt directly address the wage gap, but she believed it would shape more laws that did.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 3-22-72):WALTER CRONKITE: In almost every Congress since 1923, there has been proposed a Constitutional Amendment to guarantee equal rights for women. Well today, it finally won approval.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 3-23-72):PAUL DUKE: Proclaiming once and for all that women have all the same rights as that other sex.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 3-22-72):JOHN CHANCELLOR: The agreement now goes to the states and must be ratified by 38 of them.
ELEANOR SMEAL: Oh, we were all very jubilant. We were on the steps of the Senate, so excited! It passed, it was going out to the states.
NARRATION: It was widely supported, among Democrats and Republicans, including President Nixon and his wife Pat.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 3-22-72):JOHN CHANCELLOR: Nebraska today became the second state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 2-8-73):HOWARD K. SMITH: Minnesota and Oregon ratified
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 2-22-73):JOHN CHANCELLOR: Vermont
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 3-15-73):HARRY REASONER: In Connecticut
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 3-15-73):Washington became the 29th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment today.
GLORIA STEINEM (WRITER AND FEMINIST ACTIVIST): Surely, you know, this was just so obvious to be included in the Constitution that it wouldnt be a battle.
ARCHIVAL (THE PHIL DONAHUE SHOW, 5-1-74):PHIL DONAHUE: Well talk about all these things with Phyllis Schlafly. Would you welcome Mrs. Schlafly.
NARRATION: Phyllis Schlafly became the public face of the anti-ERA campaign.
ARCHIVAL (THE PHIL DONAHUE SHOW, 5-1-74):PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: One of the first things the Equal Rights Amendment would do is to invalidate the state laws that make it the obligation of the husband to support his wife.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY (EAGLE FORUM FOUNDER): ERA was an amendment pushed by the feminists. And I thought well this is, this is absolutely crazy.
ARCHIVAL (THE PHIL DONAHUE SHOW, 5-1-74):PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: I get fed up with the womens liberationists running down motherhood and saying its a menial degrading career and that the home is a prison from which women should be liberated and brought out into this wonderful workforce.
RICK PERLSTEIN (AUTHOR, THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE): She understood how to manipulate the media. And the idea of framing herself as a wronged housewife, whod kind of been flushed out of, you know, the kitchen where she really wanted to be, was absolutely brilliant.
ARCHIVAL (THE PHIL DONAHUE SHOW, 5-1-74):PHIL DONAHUE: Why if youre so shot with motherhood why arent you staying home being a mother?PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: I am. Everything I do I do in the home. Im out about 1 day a week on a television program like this, and I think theyre capable of getting their breakfast that morning without me.
NARRATION: She was the mother of six, an author and conservative Republican whod run for Congress and lost twice.
RICK PERLSTEIN: Phyllis Schlafly is someone who came out of the Goldwater movement, whose connection with conservatives of all stripes, all over the country were matchless. She had a rolodex like nobodys business, probably as big as a beach ball.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 3-7-73):SYLVIA CHASE: Mrs. Schlafly, in a well organized and financed campaign has been flying around the country, inspiring opposition groups such as this one in Dade County.
RICK PERLSTEIN:I think shes probably the best political organizer weve seen in American history.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 1-21-73):BETTY ROLLIN: The anti-amendment mail started coming in. One legislator got 50 letters in a day.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 1-29-74):GLORIA LANE: Opponents saw it as a sinister plot to subject women to the draft, unisex toilets and possible loss of alimony. Some said it smelled of communism.
NARRATION: Schlaflys campaign slowed down the rate of ratification. Several states even took back their votes.
The debate raged in statehouses across the country, but perhaps nowhere was it more contentious than in Illinois Schlaflys home state.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: Well, its probably hard for you to realize how big it was media wise and politically. It just consumed the Illinois legislature for 10 years. I really got tired of going to Springfield. But I went.
ELEANOR SMEAL: We were there every day. And we so outnumbered our opposition. And we had, you know, every major womens group in the United States.
PAULA PURDUE (FORMER LOBBYIST): My responsibility was to be in charge of the Equal Rights Amendment. The male legislators, particularly those in their 60s and 70s, just couldnt accept that a woman could be a lobbyist. They would just presume that I was my bosss secretary.
NARRATION: As a lobbyist for the Illinois Education Association, Paula Purdue observed Phyllis Schlafly up close.
PAULA PURDUE: She would have 30 to 50 people a day with fresh bread and fresh pie. Of course legislators all want to eat. And, you know, when you get fresh pie everyday, it didnt get old.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY:We brought a loaf of homemade bread to every legislator. So the feminists looked upon that as a dirty trick.
RICK PERLSTEIN: While this whole thing was going on she literally earned a law degree in her spare time.
NARRATION: And it seemed she never ran out of arguments.
ARCHIVAL (MISSOURI FORUM, 2-1-78):PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: Women would have to be drafted, just like men and put in military combat, just like men.
GLORIA STEINEM: People would get in touch with her, you know, and say, You know, it wouldnt do that. She would say, Oh, thank you so much. And then she would just go to the next place and say exactly the same thing.
ARCHIVAL (FALWELL GOSPEL HOUR, 1-1-80):PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: They want to give the homosexuals and the lesbians the same dignity as husbands and wives.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 8-26-77):WOMEN IN ERA PARADE: ERA has nothing to do with abortion, it has nothing to do with homosexuality, but they tie these emotional issues to it and it scares people.
NARRATION: By 1977 Schlaflys anti-ERA campaign had aligned with Evangelical, Catholic and Mormon faith groups.
RICK PERLSTEIN: In politics, everything is about coalitions and these groups are learning to work together. By 1977, there really is no daylight between issues like the ERA, gay rights and abortion. And the reason Phyllis Schlafly is such an important figure in this is, shes able to encompass all these threads, and bring em together.
ARCHIVAL (PRO LIFE RALLY, 11-19-77):PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: I am informed that there are 15,000 inside and several thousand more who have, unfortunately, were turned away.
NARRATION: The coalition gathered in Houston, Texas that November. They did so because across town about 20,000 women were attending the first ever convention promoting equality between the sexes.
ARCHIVAL (NATIONAL WOMENS CONFERENCE, 1977):BELLA ABZUG: This is the time we will make women and men share equally in the greatness of America.
ARCHIVAL (PRO LIFE RALLY, 11-19-77):WOMEN (SHOUTING): ERA, ERA, ERA!
RICK PERLSTEIN: And on that stage, you saw the First Lady of the United States, Rosalynn Carter, the previous First Lady, Republican Betty Ford, this was a bipartisan group of people, and they were all advocating very strongly for the Equal Rights Amendment. Both parties in 1970s still had liberal factions and conservative factions. And one of the things that the ERA hastens is this sorting into Republican equals conservative and Democrats equal liberal.
ARCHIVAL (PRO LIFE RALLY, 11-19-77):PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: I know that you have the energy and the dedication to defeat this assault on the family, you can turn back this tide all across the country. If you stay with us, the Equal Rights Amendment will die.
NARRATION: As the 1980 presidential election approached, the emerging religious right threw its support behind Ronald Reagan. At the convention conservatives were seated as delegates on the platform committee.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 7-7-80):Chairman John Tower barely had time to gavel the platform resolutions committee to order this morning, before the single most controversial issue the committee must deal with surfaced: the Equal Rights Amendment.
NARRATION: With Schlafly looking on, the party would step to the right.
ELEANOR SMEAL:They repositioned the party to be the party against abortion, and the party against gay rights, and the party against the Equal Rights Amendment.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 7-8-80):JOHN CHANCELLOR: They voted to end the Republican partys 40 years of support for the Equal Rights Amendment.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 7-8-80):MORTON DEAN: While retreating from the partys past support for the ERA, the subcommittee endorsed a plank that would strengthen the partys opposition to legalized abortion.
NARRATION: Within two years of Reagan taking office, the final deadline expired. Thirty-five states had ratified three short of what was needed to change the Constitution.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 6-30-82):FRANK REYNOLDS: It is June 30th and at midnight tonight the Equal Rights Amendment becomes, at least for now, a lost cause.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: It was a tremendous victory. And of course we assumed that God was on our side.
RICK PERLSTEIN: The anti-ERA side won this particular battle, but I dont think anyone would doubt who won the war. Women take it as a matter of course that theres more to life than being someones wife. Thats one of the biggest changes in world history.
ARCHIVAL (DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION, 6-7-16):HILLARY CLINTON: Weve reached a milestone. First time, the first time in our nations history that a woman will be a major partys nominee.
ELEANOR SMEAL: Slowly but surely more and more women are getting elected. And women are now in a higher position in corporations. The fight goes on. But were getting closer.
NARRATION: From reproductive rights to wages, the conversation continues.
CATHERINE HILL: I think that we have some very good laws on the books and they help us a great deal to require equal pay for equal work. And yet, we still dont see equality in terms of the bottom line, in terms of wages.
NARRATION: Hills research shows that womens wages rose steadily in the 1980s and 1990s as they graduated from college and entered the workforce in record numbers. But around 2000, progress stalled. Today, women make eighty cents for every dollar a man earns.
CATHERINE HILL: Women are still making more of an investment in education than ever before, but were not seeing their wages continue to rise. In fact, theyre stagnant. And then we see for Hispanic and black women, its a lot less.
GLORIA STEINEM: What I learned with pain over time is how profound the economic resistance was to equal pay. I mean, people were making millions and millions of dollars, and still are, off paying female human beings of all races quite unequally compared to white men. That right there is enough to fight like hell for the Equal Rights Amendment.
NARRATION: For Illinois state legislator Heather Steans, the fight today is about righting a past wrong. She re-introduced the ERA in the Illinois Senate.
HEATHER STEANS: I really think most of my colleagues couldnt even believe that it would be an issue of discussion at this point in time. Why would anybody possibly hesitate to-to-to vote yes on that? But we still had no votes.
NARRATION: The measure finally passed, more than three decades after Phyllis Schlafly made the case against it.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY: I think American women are the most fortunate people on the face of the Earth. We dont need any legislation to say any more than that.