The Women’s and Gender Equity Center invited feminist activist and author Zoe Nicholson Thursday in honor of Women’s History Month to discuss the legacy of suffragist and activist Alice Paul, author of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Nicholson is known for being a women’s and civil rights activist and equality and a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, which is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution meant to guarantee equal rights between men and women. Nicholson has participated in many public events, including the 2019 Women’s March to a 37-day public fast in Illinois in 1982 in a show of support for the Equal Rights Amendment.
It was during that public fast that Nicholson said she wanted to know who the author of the amendment was.
It was Paul, who was born in 1885.
“At the time of the fast almost nobody had ever heard her name,” Nicholson said. “Fortunately, I think more people today have heard her name and I want to take a bit of credit for that, not much, but a little bit.”
Nicholson considers herself a scholar on Paul, and during the event, shared more about Paul and her work.
During Paul’s senior year in college, she received a fellowship at a settlement house in New York City, 1906. There, Nicholson said, was when Paul began to see that social work would not be enough to support the individuals in these communities, only full constitutional equality.
Not only did Paul author the Equal Rights Amendment, she wrote 600 pieces of legislation in the 1920s to 1930s, according to Nicholson, and 300 were passed.
“The reason women can maintain an American citizenship, even if they marry somebody of a different nationality, Alice Paul,” Nicholson said, sharing some of the rights made possible by Paul. “That a woman doesn’t have to take her husband’s name, Alice Paul. Title seven of the Civil Rights Act, Alice Paul.”
Currently, the Equal Rights Amendment has not been passed.
During the 1970s, 35 out of the required 38 states had ratified the amendment. The path to ratification changed when conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly began to advocate against the amendment, framing the amendment to appear to be in opposition of conservative values instead of empowering women. During that time, multiple states revoked their ratification.
Since then, the amendment has been in a state of limbo, but in 2017, Nevada ratified the amendment. Illinois followed, and in 2020, so did Virginia, which should make it the 38th state.
But, the deadline for ratification ended in the 1980s, making the legalities of Virginia’s ratification unclear.
Nicholson encouraged attendees of the event to continue pushing for the 28th amendment.
“I hope I have given you a full heart to see that the United States Constitution includes every American, regardless of gender,” Nicholson said.