In the late 1960s and early 1970’s, the women’s movement fought battles on many fronts. It had many successes but also faced strong opposition. In 1972, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). If 38 states ratified this amendment, protection against gender discrimination would become part of the Constitution. By 1979, 35 states had done so. However, opposition to the ERA had begun to grow. Many people saw it as a threat to traditional values. Some feared it would take away the legal rights of wives and allow women to be drafter into the military. A vocal opponent of the ERA was Phyllis Schlafly. She organised the nationwide Stop-ERA campaign. By the end of 1979, four states had voted to rescind their approval. The ERA failed in 1982, unable to gain ratification by three-fourths of the states.
A major accomplishment of the women’s movement was gaining greater equality for women in education. Leaders of the movement pushed lawmakers to pass federal laws banning discrimination in education. In 1972, Congress passed a collection of laws known as the Educational Amendments. One part of these laws was Title IX. It stopped federally funded schools from discriminating against females in nearly all areas, including admissions and sports.
Another important goal for many women was the repeal of laws against abortion. Until 1973, the right to regulate abortion was given to the states. This was in keeping with the original plan of the Constitution. In the mid-1800s, states also had passed laws prohibiting abortion except to save the mother’s life. In the late 1960’s, some states began adopting more liberal abortion laws. In 1973, the Supreme Court rules in Roe v. Wade that state governments could not regulate abortion during the first three months of pregnancy. This was interpreted as being within a woman’s constitutional right to privacy. The decision led to the rise of the right-to-life movement. Members of this movement considered abortion an absolute wrong and wanted it to be banned. The heated battle over abortion continues today.
The women’s movement has greatly affected society. Many more women have pursued college degrees and careers outside of the home since the 1970’s. Many employers now offer ways to help make work life more compatible with family life. Still, there remains a wide income gap between men and women. Most working women still hold lower paying jobs. In professional positions, however, women have made more dramatic gains since the 1970s.