Virginia’s vote could be the last state vote needed to allow the United States Congress to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would become the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.
VAratifyERA Sunday — Women’s Equality Day — kicked off a campaign to press Virginia lawmakers to approve the amendment in January by holding screenings around Virginia of “Iron Jawed Angels.” The film stars Hilary Swank as Alice Paul, the suffragist who first drafted the ERA.
Women’s Equality Day, Aug. 26, commemorates passing the 19th Amendment in 1920, prohibiting state and federal governments from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex after a fight for women’s rights that began in the mid-1800’s.
The proposed ERA seeks to further expand equal legal rights guarantees for all American citizens regardless of sex.
Voting rights were a significant victory for women in 1918. Suffragists endured unthinkable treatment during the quest. Drawing little public interest when picketing began in January 1917; by April, as World War I started, the public became outraged at suffragists’ criticism of President Woodrow Wilson’s “hypocrisy” in calling for Democracy in Europe.
Suffragists suffered multiple incarcerations, increasing fines; even the torture of force feeding following hunger strikes, and eventually beatings, choking, and kicking by prison guards during the infamous “Night of Terror” on Nov. 14, 1917, at the Occoquan Workhouse.
Finally, public sympathy and shock over such treatment, for merely picketing, led to their release two weeks later. In January 1918, President Wilson came out in favor of the 19thamendment.
It had taken 72 years for women to get the vote, but women have yet to be recognized as having equal rights, beyond voting, under law in the United States Constitution.