( 1912-), member of Congress, women's rights advocate, attorney
JUDITH S. TRENT
On August 10, 1970, a ten-term congresswoman from Michigan initiated a debate in the House of Representatives that earned her the title "Mother of the ERA" (" Martha Griffiths," Chicago Tribune, 1990:2). Although Martha Wright Griffiths was successful in steering the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) through the legislative quagmire that had stalled it for almost fifty years, it was far from her only rhetorical/legislative accomplishment on behalf of women. In fact, during her twenty years in Congress, she did so much to extend U.S. laws to women that she is clearly among a small group of advocates who were instrumental in changing the course of women's lives during the second half of the twentieth century.
From the beginning, it was evident that Martha Wright would excel in whatever she chose to do with her life. Her parents were, in most respects, similar to the other residents of the small town in the Missouri Ozarks called Pierce City. In at least one way, however, they must have been different. At a time when higher education was far from commonplace for females, the Wrights championed the ambitions of their daughter and saw to it that she received a university education.
The strength of conviction, self-determination, and perseverance evident in Wright Griffiths' rhetoric throughout her career could also have been inherited from her paternal grandmother, Jeannettie Hinds Wright, who worked outside her home as a tailor and hotel clerk and manager to put three sons through high school in a period when few achieved more than an eighth grade education. She persevered to ensure that her sons received an education, and she did so by working at jobs that were atypical for women. She was also a suffragist who