Why ERA Failed: Politics, Women's Rights, and the Amending Process of the Constitution

Why ERA Failed: Politics, Women's Rights, and the Amending Process of the Constitution

Why ERA Failed: Politics, Women's Rights, and the Amending Process of the Constitution

Why ERA Failed: Politics, Women's Rights, and the Amending Process of the Constitution

Synopsis

Why ERA Failed looks at the systemic problems of politics and the amending process. The author, Mary Frances Berry, considers the behavior of the two sides from the perspective of a historian and lawyer. She describes the history of the amending process, from the Constitutional Convention to the present day, and its application to the struggles for amendments concerned with the status of blacks after the Civil War, income tax, prohibition, child labor, and woman suffrage.

Berry concludes that ERA approval was problematic at best and defeat predictable. Supporters did too little of what is required for ratification of a substantive proposal too late. Furthermore, the large number of state ratifications gained was deceptive. Support was eroding instead of increasing in the final stages of the campaign.

Excerpt

The purpose of this book is to analyze why ERA failed in the context of the history of the amending process of the Constitution. The genesis of the book lies in my dismay as I testified before the House Judiciary Committee concerning ERA. I noticed that there was so little discussion on the traditional principle of the equality of rights and so much on whether ERA would violate traditional family values. Creating an appearance that some essential values would be compromised by adding an amendment is a powerful weapon that cannot easily be defused. This strategy had been used before by those opposed to a proposed amendment. Because the Constitution is by design more difficult to amend than not, I believe it would be useful to present an explanation of the inherent difficulties of the amending process in order to understand the outcome of the ERA controversy.

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