Equal Rights Amendment

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The idea for an equal rights amendment did not come about until the middle part of the twentieth century. An amendment was proposed after World War II in an attempt to gain equality between men and women. Often times, women were viewed as weaker and inferior to the male sex. Women’s rights groups were formed to prevent people from discriminating against women. These groups not only believed that women should be better treated by men, but they believed women should have the same legal opportunities. Also, they believed that gender should not determine a person’s occupation or pay. The Equal Rights Amendment started out as a proposed amendment. This amendment was introduced to congress in 1923 (Suffrage). It was not until about fifty years later, however, that the amendment was approved by the Senate. Following the Senate’s approval, the amendment was sent to the states to be ratified. The amendment ultimately read that sex should not determine the legal rights of both men and women (Women’s Health). As the focus of the women’s movement changed, the way the amendment was worded changed. These changes, however, did not lay out a specific strategy of how the proposed amendment’s ratification would be promoted. As a result, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment was not ratified.

Before entering World War II, several companies in the United States were under contract to help with making equipment for the Allies. The United States entered the war very quickly. Production had to increase drastically to be able to produce enough equipment. New factories and work places were built to accommodate these drastic changes in production (Anderson). As a result, these new work places needed workers. At first, the companies did not think to hire women because they did not think there would be as big a shortage in male workers as there was. This, however, was not the case. Women workers were desperately needed by the companies. The companies needed such large numbers of workers that hiring women was their only option. A large number of the men were leaving for war. The working life was not new to some of the women. Most of the lower-class women were used to working (Anderson). “The cultural division of labor by sex, however, usually put white middle-class women at home” (Anderson). The men of the family were often times the workers of the household. Many during the Depression were against women working. They believed it was taking jobs away from all the unemployed men during this time (Anderson). It was well understood that workers during World War II were greatly needed. It was also understood that it was to be temporary to have women working. The government began recruiting women into the workforce. It launched a propaganda campaign to show the women how important the war effort was. They made up a fictional character, “Rosie the Riveter,” to show women how the ideal woman worker should act (Dabakis). They perceived her as loyal worker who was very efficient. The idea caught on and became the official image of working women. A number of different aspects affected which women responded to the call to work. These aspects might have been anything from age to race or from marital status to class. Women of the lower-class made up at least half of the women who took jobs during the war (Anderson). These women were already used to working. They benefited from making a switch from a low-paying job to a higher-paying job working in the factories. Still desperate for workers, the companies began to recruit young women straight out of high school. It became evident that married women, even those who had young children, were needed in the workforce. Most of the husbands were opposed to their working, even if the women were willing to work (Anderson). The government encouraged women who had children under the age of fourteen to not leave home. The government thought that children who did not have at least one parental figure in their lives would...
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