An Unlikely Defeat: The ERA Fight in Illinois

Wednesday, January 8, 2020 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Location: 

  • Illinois State Museum, Springfield

Event Venue: 

Thorne Deuel Auditorium

Event Audience: 

Adult
Teen

Fee: 

Free, donations appreciated

Paul Mickey Learning Series presented byDr.  Mark DePue, Director of Oral History, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

In March 1972 the U.S. Congress voted, with overwhelming bipartisan support, to adopt an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The issue was then sent to the states, with passage in thirty-eight states required for adoption. From 1972 through 1982, the United States witnessed a battle to adopt the amendment, a battle that was often contentious and always noisy. By 1973 thirty states had passed the amendment, but surprisingly, it had already gone down to defeat in the Illinois legislature in 1972. Even so, the pro-ERA forces were confident of ultimate victory in Illinois, believing that the amendment’s adoption nationwide was inevitable.

But 1973 also saw the emergence of a counter-ERA movement, aptly labeled Stop ERA. It was led by Phyllis Schlafly, the staunchly conservative Republican, best-selling author, dynamic speaker, and organizational dynamo. As the only northern industrial state not to pass the measure early on, Illinois became a hotly contested battleground state. Every year from 1972 to 1982 the issue went before the Illinois legislature; sometimes the Illinois House passed it, sometimes the Senate, but never both chambers in the same year. For most of those years, the pro-ERA and anti-ERA forces gathered in Springfield and fought it out in very public ways. The fight culminated in 1982, and included a couple of the most memorable events ever to occur in the Illinois legislature, only to go down to defeat.

Dr. Mark DePue is the Director of Oral History at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, serving in this position since the inauguration of the Library’s Oral History Program. To date, the program has collected over 1,000 interviews on Illinois politics, education, agriculture, immigration, African Americans, sports, religion, architecture and more. Approximately nine hundred interviews posted onto the Oral History website: www.oralhistory.illinois.gov.

Prior to his work with the Oral History Program, Dr. DePue served for twenty-six years in the military, taught Military science as an Assistant Professor at Western Illinois University, and is the author of two books, including Patrolling Baghdad: A Military Police Company and the War in Iraq.

Each month, the Paul Mickey Learning Series features a different speaker and topic in the Auditorium at the Illinois State Museum. For additional information, please contact events@illinoisstatemuseum.org or (217) 558-6696.

Photo: When ERA went down to defeat, ERA activists showed their disapproval by writing the names of their opponents in pigs’ blood outside the governor’s office on June 25, 1982. LtR are Ann Casey Elder, Sue Yarber, and Mary Lee Sargent.

 The ERA Fight in Illinois

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