tv Equal Rights Amendment CSPAN April 24, 2016 11:47pm-12:02am EDT
c-span american history tv interviewed her at the 2016 annual meeting of american historians in providence, rhode island. this is about 15 minutes. >> for those of you who have forgotten or never know, what is equal rights amendment? ms. griffis: it would have legally brought equality for women and men regardless of sex. it was originally introduced in 1923 by alice paul. people may know her from the national woman's party, a radical suffrage group during the 1910s and she brought it forth as a way to greater stabilize political equality between men and women. for the 1920's it was something unfathomable for most people and it was brought up again in between the time of the 1920's
and 1970's, but never really got much credit. it did not go farther than any congressional committee, but in 1972, thanks to a lot of work in the house and the senate, it got brought for ratification in 1972 to be sent to the state to say, yes or no, do we want this added to the u.s. constitution? >> how do you focus your research? ms. griffis: my research works with conservative women, and while they were greatly against the e.r.a., other women we might consider conservative really supported it, so it kind of re-centers arguments about is the e.r.a. were to come forward again, if it was currently in congress, and if it was to go to the state for ratification again, where can we look to other than liberals and groups we know what supported for solidarity and aid in votes?
>> you were looking at the 1970's and 1980's, how was conservativism defined by the women? ms. griffis: it is defined in so many ways, and historians are trying to find out how conservativism was defined. i am looking for how conservative women define their own womanhood. what does it mean to be a woman to them based on their own historical context, and for women it means women who stay in the home, who submit to male authority, who are leery of what greater equality between men and women will have socially, what effect it will have socially, and when i come down to more is it is really turning back to early visions of what womanhood meant and what our country used to be. kind of challenging whether the forward progress that liberals imagine with the e.r.a. is
actually progress or whether it is going backward? >> her organization was-- ms. griffis: it was called "s.t.o.p. the e.r.a." if it was put in place, women would lose what she calls, a special place in american society, and instead they would be treated like men. >> were there other organized opponents? ms. griffis: not on her level. she was the largest grassroots organization, but there are other women in other women's groups particularly amongst the new christian right such as concerned women for america, led by beverly lehay, who argue if the e.r.a. were to be put in place, it would mean a lost
privilege for women, not necessarily a lot of new rights and benefits for those women. >> on the other side, there were other proponents like betty ford. ms. griffis: betty ford is one of the most fascinating first ladies in american history. she gets called the first modern first lady since eleanor roosevelt because of her activism, and she was already known as a supporter of women's rights and issues. she suffered from breast cancer, and she gained a lot of dumb variety and appreciation from -- 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, yes, it was important to be a woman in a traditional way people understood womanhood, but also she believes that women should be legally and politically equal, and that the only way america could go forward and to
progress was if women gained that legal equality in terms of equal rights in the workplace, equal pay, and the social changes that would occur if women got legal equality. >> she joins forces with rosalynn carter. ms. griffis: i don't think many people expected that. when you have two ladies from different parties, joining the forces, especially at the tail end of the 1972 ratification, it was a huge call to arms for e.r.a. proponents, people who supported it. it failed in the end, unfortunately, but it was a moment of both parties coming together to say, yes, women deserve equal rights. >> what were the most influential arguments against
the e.r.a.? ms. griffis: easily, hands down, the most influential argument was if the e.r.a. were to be put in place, women would be subject to the draft. for this time, you were living through the vietnam war or had strong historical memory of the vietnam war, and so the idea that not only men would be subject to the draft, and war, women what is well. certain segments of the population believed women should be protected, that women were more vulnerable and to subject women, of all people to the draft was unthinkable. a lot of historians, myself included, will argue that the draft was really that below for the e.r.a. if this was not on the table, it
may have had a greater chance of success. >> did the defeat of the bill give a boost to conservative women's groups? ms. griffis: i would not necessarily say a boost, because one of the arguments conservative women used to validate the fact that they were political actors was this idea that, yes, women should be in the home but we also understand the amendment would have ramifications on the home, right? it would change the way we thought about children, and so one of the arguments was, when the e.r.a. is defeated, women ostensibly argued they would go back to the home, that they would be happy to return as homemakers once their position in the home was safe. what we do know is the struggle against the e.r.a., once it was defeated, women did not go back to the home, even though conservative women who said they would once it was safe, retained their position within politics, so if nothing else, it might be
neat to think of the e.r.a. as a type of political boot camp for a lot of women where they realized the power of being a viable and visible political presence. once you have that power, it is hard to step away, especially once they realize that even with the e.r.a. defeated, there were still challenges that liberals and conservatives were bringing up to traditional ideas of what it meant to be a woman, and so unless all of them were defeated, it seemed reasonable that women should stay within the public realm of being a part of politics. >> what interested you in this topic in the first place? ms. griffis: when i was in graduate school, there was this understanding within the literature that conservativism was this flippant time and it was fading from power, and i was looking around me and recognizing the effects of the
reagan revolution, recognizing that i was living through a george w. bush presidency, and it was really hard to argue that conservativism was falling away, and so when i peered through the literature and started reading more and more, it was clear that conservativism was not going anywhere, and as we can all see from the current presidential climate, conservativism is here to say. for people who are interested in conservativism or interested in ways that challenge this new form of conservativism, studying historical conservativism becomes even more important. >> in your research, were there any surprises? ms. griffis: you know, not necessarily surprises because the arguments that they used in the 1970's and 1980's are the same arguments they use today. and you know, that is probably the most surprising part is how these arguments get recycled in different ways in different
historical contexts. a lot of the arguments they were putting forth against the e.r.a. are the same kind of arguments that people are making today about women's reproductive rights and how far are we going to let women go toward inequality 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 but in different form. >> what kind of research resources did you use? ms. griffis: i used her report more than anything else. 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 was go to the national association of evangelical archives and sift
through some of the papers of evangelical women who fought against the e.r.a. it is completely different to hear historical interpretations of those pieces of evidence that to actually see the evidence with your own eyes, right? and to bring forth your own interpretation, and sometimes my interpretation was copacetic with the old interpretations, and sometimes they were brand-new based on the context that i was reading them in. it was a blast, an absolute blast. >> thank you very much. ms. griffis: thank you. >> beginning next weekend we show it spend that expanded ofments of the 1975 hearings
intelligence activity. the church committee, 40 years later. next weekend, saturday at 10:00 p.m. and sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern time, only on american history tv on c-span3. i am a history back. i do enjoy seeing the fabric of workountry and how things and how they are made. >> it's a fantastic show. >> it gives you that perspective. >> madam secretary, we've rapidly give 72 by delegate votes to the next president of the united states.
>> coming up next, a discussion with two men who were at the center of the events known as watergate. alexander butterfield played a role in revealing the cover of that destroyed his presidency. he reflects along with bob nixon's personality and they offer opinions on topics ranging from watergate to policies in vietnam. this program is an hour.