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.
This collection of interviews tells both sides of a very contentious story, with special emphasis on the yearly fights in the Illinois state legislature.