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Equal Rights, Equal Pay!

March 15, 2016

Since March is Women’s History Month, I figured I would share a story regarding Hoosiers’ fight in the pursuit to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.

The Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced to Congress in 1923, but it did not pass through both houses until 1972. The proposed 27th Amendment’s goal was to establish equal rights under the law and no one should be denied those rights on account of one’s sex.

This included pay.

In 1972, women only made about 58 cents for every dollar earned by men working the same job. After the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress, 38 states had to ratify by the 1982 deadline for the amendment to be added to the U.S. Constitution. Within the first year, 30 states ratified. Indiana wasn’t one of them.

Hoosiers for the Equal Rights Amendment (HERA) was established in August 1973. The organization’s sole purpose was to promote the ratification and implementation of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

League of Women Voters

HERA members tirelessly lobbied Indiana legislatures for years to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. They mass produced bumper stickers, bracelets, pamphlets and buttons to help promote the cause.

At the time, several polls showed 65 percent of Indiana voters supported the Equal Rights Amendment.

In 1974, HERA president Audra Bailey wrote a letter to the Indiana legislature that stated, “Our nation’s Bicentennial Celebration is just around the corner reminding us that women have been without full constitutional rights for 200 years.”

HERA’s diligent efforts worked. Indiana ratified the Equal Rights Amendment on Jan. 24, 1977, making it the 35th state to do so. Unfortunately, Indiana was the last state to ratify and therefore the amendment never attained 38 states before its deadline and was defeated.

The Equal Rights Amendment still has not been passed to this day.

Melissa Brummett is a Marketing Intern at the Indiana Historical Society. She enjoys photography, reading, sports and history.

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