A Series of Unfortunate Circumstances: The Rescission of the Equal Rights Amendment in Kentucky
by Harper Jones
Category: Humanities and Social Sciences
Abstract – In 1923, suffragist Alice Paul introduced the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Woman's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. After repeated attempts to introduce and pass the ERA, Congress ratified the amendment in 1972 and the ERA was sent to the states, many of whom were quick to ratify. However, the prospect of state-based ratification provided a platform for local conservatives and state's rights activists, alike, to call for rescission of the amendment. Five states - Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee, and South Dakota - voted to rescind their original approval of the Equal Rights Amendment before its 1982 ratification deadline. The focus of this paper lies in Kentucky, in which the rescission movement was extraordinarily successful despite the speed at which the state legislature initially ratified the ERA. By 1978, Kentucky STOP-ERA forces were able to successfully lobby the state legislature to rescind the amendment. Overall, this paper seeks to determine why STOP-ERA forces were successful in their efforts to rescind the amendment in the face of widespread national and local support. Through investigation into the factors that contributed to rescission, this paper concludes that success of the rescission movement in Kentucky can be attributed to three key factors: 1) the rescission movement's successful framing of the ERA as morally corrosive to society, 2) the STOP-ERA movement's ability to form a diverse coalition comprised of conservatives, state's rights activists, and religious groups, and 3) the pro-ERA's belated and ineffectual response to the rescission movement.