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tv   Equal Rights Amendment  CSPAN  May 1, 2016 8:47am-9:01am EDT

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as far as politics, my late father would say, not for me. we will have to see what happens after this cycle. >> thank you very much. [applause] >> you are watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. toledo, university of history lecturer chelsea griffis talks about how conservative
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women reacted to the introduction of equal rights amendment in the 1970's. c-span's american history tv interviewed ms. griffis at the meeting of american historians in providence, rhode island. this is about 15 minutes. >> chelsea griffis, for those who have forgotten or never knew, what is the equal rights amendment? ms. griffis: a failed constitutional amendment that would have legally fought equality for men and women, regardless of sex. it was originally introduced in 1923 by alice paul. people might know her from the national woman's party, a radical suffrage group. during the 1910's especially, she brought it forth to greater stabilize political equality between men and women. for the 1920's, it was something unfathomable to most people.
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it was brought up again between the 1920's and 1970's, but never really got much credit. it did not go farther than any congressional committees. to a lot ofthanks work in the house and senate, it got brought up for ratification in 1972 to be sent to the states, yes or no, do we want this added to the u.s. constitution? >> how have you focused your research? griffis: my research looks at broadly defined conservative women. some such as phyllis schlafly were against the era. but other women we would consider conservative supported it. a kind of receptors arguments about if the era were to come forward again, and if the era were to go to the states for ratification again, where can we look to other than liberals and feminists and groups that we know would support the era for
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solidarity and aides? >> looking at the 1970's and 1980's, how is it defined by women who call themselves conservative? ms. griffis: it is defined in so many ways, and historians are doing magnificent work trying to figure out just how conservative they were. for me, i am looking at how women define their own womanhood. what does it mean to be a woman to them based on their historical context? and for women like phyllis schlafly it means women who stay in the home, submit to male authority, who are leery of what greater equality between men and women will have socially, what effect it will have socially. it is turning back to older visions of what womanhood meant, and what our country used to be,
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whether thelenging forward progress the liberals imagined is actually progress or is it going backward? >> the organization was called? ms. griffis: it was called stop era, stopped taking our privileges. she felt women would not have a special place in american society and in that would just -- and instead, they would just be treated like men. >> any others like her? ms. griffis: she was the largest easily the most influential, the largest grassroots organization. there are other women and other women's groups particularly among the new christian right, such as concerned women for america, which was led by beverly lehay, that argued if the era were put in place it would mean a loss of privilege
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for women and not necessarily a lot of new rights and benefits for those women. >> on the other side, betty ford there was a ver prominent supporter of the e.r.a., betty ford. ms. griffis: betty ford is one of the most fascinating first ladies in american history. she is called the first modern first lady since eleanor roosevelt because of her activism. she was already known as a supporter of women's rights and women's issues. she suffered from breast cancer. she gained a lot of notoriety and appreciation from women because she publicized breast cancer and the importance of getting screened. so when betty ford supported the equal rights amendment, she did so based on the premise that it was important to be a woman, in in the traditional way people
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understood womanhood, but also, she believed women should be legally and politically equal. and the only way america could go forward and progress is if women gained that legally equality in terms of equal rights in the workplace, equal pay. the social changes that would occur if women got legally equality. >> she joined forces with her successor, rosalynn carter. ms. griffis: absolutely, and i don't think many people expected that one, right? aen you have to first ladies, republican and a democrat joining forces, especially at the tail end of the 1972-1982 ratification period. it was a huge call to arms for e.r.a. proponents, people who supported it. it really did seem bipartisan. it failed in the end, unfortunately. but it was a moment of both parties coming together to say yes, women deserve equal rights.
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>> what were the most influential arguments against the era? ms. griffis: hands down, if the the most influential argument was that if the era were to be put in place, women would be subject to the draft. remember for this time period you are either living through the vietnam war or had a long strong historical memory of the vietnam war. the idea that not only men would be subject to this, that women would, too. we still at least a long certain segments of the population believed that women should be protected. that women were more vulnerable. and to subject women to the draft was unthinkable. a live historians including myself argued that the draft was really the killing blow for the era. that if conscription was not on the table, the era may have had a greater chance of success.
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>> did the defeat give a boost to conservative women's groups? ms. griffis: i would not say a boost. one of the arguments they used conservative women used to validate the fact that they were political actors was the idea that yes, women should be in the home, but we understand that this era, the amendment, would have ramifications on the home. it would change the way women are imagined, change the way we thought about children. one of the arguments was when era is defeated, women would be -- att was least ostensibly would be happy to return to the home as homemakers. once their position in the home was safe. but the struggle against the era, once it was defeated, women did not go back to the home. even those conservative women
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who said they would when it was safe retained their position and within politics. it might be need to think of the era as a political boot camp for a lot of women when they realized the power a political presence would have. once you have that power, it is really hard to step away. especially once they realized that even with the era defeated, there were still challenges they that feminists and liberals and other conservatives were bringing to traditional ideas of what it meant to be a woman. unless all of them were defeated, it seemed reasonable that women could stay within that public realm of eating part being part of politics. >> what interested you in the topic in the first place? ms. griffis: when i was in graduate school, there was an this understanding within the literature that conservatism was
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time and it was fading from power. and i was looking around me and recognizing the sexism of the reagan revolution, recognizing i was living through a george w. bush presidency, and it was hard to argue that conservativism was falling away. when i started reading more and more, it was clear that conservativism was not going anywhere. as we can see from the current presidential climate, conservativism is here to stay. for people who are interested in conservativism or interested in new ways to challenge this new form of conservatism, studying historical conservatism becomes even more important. >> in your research, were there any particular surprises? surprisesessarily because the arguments they used
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in the 1970's and 1980's are the same arguments they use today. that has been the most surprising part, is how these arguments get recycled in different ways and different historical contexts. a lot of the arguments the reporting forth against the era are the same kind of arguments people are making today about women's reproductive rights. how are we going to let women go to equality before we start to challenge what the women of the past were considering our judeo-christian worldview. you are seeing some of the same arguments again but in totally different form. >> what kind of resources did you go to when you were doing research? ms. griffis: i used the phyllis lasky report and it was an incredible challenge to even get my hands on those microfilms. but the other thing i got to do, which was incredibly fun, is go
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to the national association of evangelical archives and sift through the papers of evangelical women who fought against the era. it is completely different to hear historical interpretations of those pieces of evidence than to actually see the evidence with your own eyes and form your own interpretations. sometimes my interpretations were not copacetic with the old interpretations, the old historiography and literature. based on the context that i was reading them in, it was a blast. it was an absolute blast. >> thank you very much. ms. griffis: thank you. > you are watching american history tv, all weekend on american history tv.
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to join the conversation, like us on facebook. >> next, constitutional scholars akhil reed amar and richard pildes discuss the evolution of the democratic process and the establishment of a bipartisan system in the united states. they start with the earliest presidential elections in the late 18th century. and described changes to the process up until today. the new york historical society hosted the event, it is about an hour. >> we are so pleased to welcome akhil reed amar back to the new york historical society. before joining yale law school, professor amar clerked for george -- for judge stephen breyer. he is also the recipient of the award for teaching excellence and is the author of several books, including his latest, the law of the land, granted to her


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