By Cheryl Knott and Janet Sanders
Forces favoring the Equal Rights
Amendment managed to outclass opponents to pass their resolution as stated in
the National Plan of Action after two
hours of parliamentary maneuvering.
The IWY Plenary Sessions were
slowed to a crawl by a minority of delegates at times, but Pro-Plan conferees still
guided nearly half the 26 resolutions
through the conference substantially
Besides the one endorsing ratification
of the ERA, measures passed included calls
for legislation supporting battered women,
federally funded child care, protection for
abused children and full employment
But more procedural delays and extended debate were expected for at least
two remaining resolutions—Reproductive
Freedom and Sexual Preference, concerning abortion and gay rights, respectively.
The pro-ERA faction anticipated dis-
sention on the floor, and some believed
rumors that right-wing anti-ERA forces
planned to provoke a confrontation.
Many delegates remained in their seats
during the dinner break to keep out supposed busloads of antis intended to stack
the meeting hall crowd at the nationally
The buses never materialized, however, and the anti-ERA minority proved to
be less potent than assumed.
Discussion of the ERA resolution
began with a few inept attempts by individual foes to manipulate procedure as a
They stepped to the microphones
time and again to complain that their opinions were not being heard, while session
chairperson Mary Anne Krupsak, lieutenant governor of New York, answered
them quickly and moved on to the next
speaker. Speakers had to know exactly
what they wanted to say, with no introductory complaints, or the next speaker was
given the floor.
Anticipation grew all night, reaching
a peak when Mildred Jefferson, a delegate
from Massachusetts and president of the
Pro-Life movement, made a play for the
spotlight by parading alone down the aisle
to her seat. She had refused to be seated
for at least half an hour before while other
resolutions were being passed. Pro-ERA
forces chanted "ERA NOW" while Jefferson walked to her seat, drowning out any
show of unity the anti forces might have
Serious discussion of the resolution
finally began with a move to amend the
resolution to include the controversial
seven-year ratification extension. Boundaries between the two groups blurred
momentarily until Betty Friedan, so-called
mother of the feminist movement, made an
impassioned speech from the floor.
The ERA must be passed this coming
year, Friedan told the expectant crowd,
"because otherwise the enormous expenditure of energy, money and effort that has
gone into this conference will be in v4in.
This is the one issue that is real, that is
urgent, that cannot in any way be ignored
cr be defeated or by flirted with."
The crowd made its decision then.
The amendment was defeated.
Debate on the resolution as stated
in the proposed National Plan of Action
began. The resolution in its entirety encompasses seven words: "The Equal Rights
Amendment should be ratified."
The next speaker supported the ERA
resolution saying, "I'm a delegate from
Wisconsin where we say that Equal Rights
are as American as apple pie." Another
delegate told the approving crowd, "I am
a Mormon woman speaking for the ERA."
Two attempts were made to stem the
tide of confident pro-ERA delegates. A
delegate from Indiana who identified herself as "chairman" of the National Association of Lawyers to Oppose the ERA, said
the amendment would transfer power from
the states to the federal government.
An Illinois delegate, saying she was
"chairman" of the National Citizens Review Committee, read two proposed
amendments which were in direct opposition to the resolution. Her revisions maintained that equal credit and employment
rights laws exist already and that only
the federal government would acquire
greater power. Krupsak requested copies
in triplicate of the amendments, which is
usual parliamentary procedure. After the
minority's repeated attempts to get the
amendments into proper form for submitting to the delegates, Krupsak finally
gave up, saying she had gone out of her
way to allow the opposition a voice.
There was no more time to waste.
The next delegate moved the ERA
resolution be approved, and backers vocally stood to vote "yes," adding plenty of
The Sam Houston Coliseum reverberated with "Ratify ERA," a chant that
turned into "Three More States" as the
demonstration of support continued for
several minutes. National Organization for
Women past-president Karen DeCrow led a
dancing chain of women down the floor
aisles, while the California delegation
waved yellow scarves and other delegates
and observers held up three fingers representing the number of states still needed
The anti-ERA groups sat quietly
throughout the jubilee.
It was the end of a long day of plenary sessions. The following resolutions also
passed with no more than minor changes
from the National Plan of Action:
Arts and Humanities More women
should be more adequately represented at
high-level positions in libraries, museums,
universities and other cultural institutions.
Battered Women Emergency shelters
should be set up for battered women and
their children. A victim of her husband's
physical abuse should be allowed to sue
for civil damages.
Business More government contracts
should be awarded to women-owned businesses. Private contracting agencies should
be directed to do the same, and monitoring
programs should be set up to see that they
Child Abuse Programs designed to
protect neglected or abused children and
children exploited for pornography should
be set up to operate on a 24-hour basis.
Police and courts should take prompt,
sensitive action against the abuser.
Child Care Federally funded child
care programs should be developed for all
those who need them, regardless of income. Special child care facilities should
be set up for rural and migrant workers.
Credit The Federal Equal Credit
Opportunity Act of 1974 which prohibits
discrimination in the extension of credit
on the basis of sex should be vigorously
Disabled Women Medicaid and Medicare benefits should be extended to cover
all medical expenses of disabled women.
And the federal government should provide them with enough financial assistance
so that they can choose between institutional and private care.
Education All laws prohibiting discrimination at all levels of education
should be enforced and women's studies
programs should be promoted. Non-sexist
and non-racist counseling should be available at every level.
Elective and Appointive Office An
effort by the President, governors, political
parties, women's organizations and individual women should be made to get greater
numbers of women into public office.
DAILY BREAKTHROUGH NOVEMBER 20, 1977 PAGE 1