ERA Minnesota sent two representatives to Richmond, Virginia, to help with the final push for the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Suzann Willhite and I stayed with our host, Eileen Davis, a founder of VAratifyERA.org, during this momentous week.
We spent our days at the Capitol as Silent Sentinels, working for visibility, talking with legislators, attending committee meetings, witnessing the historic vote that took Virginia over the top, and helping our sister advocates in every way we could. We also connected with two national affiliates, ERA Coalition and EQUAL MEANS EQUAL.
Being a part of this momentous occasion was thrilling. Some highlights included hearing moving testimony from chief author Sen. Jennifer McClellan, delegate Jennifer Carol Foy, delegate Danica Roem — who is the first transgender state elected official — and advocate Lisa Sayles, who spoke of her rape and subsequent court battles.
Best of all was being in the Virginia House Gallery with a rainbow coalition of women and a few good men when the historic ERA vote was taken. It was humbling to know that this was a turning point for the ERA and that we were present as modern-day suffragists.
When the vote came in, with a bipartisan support in both houses, there was jubilation.
Then the national press descended upon us. That was a great turn of events because until this point national media had steered clear of the ERA. Now they were amplifying our cause into the homes of Americans across the country. All along our greatest challenge has been education and awareness. Virginia’s ratification has put a spotlight on justice and women’s rights. For that we are most grateful.
Now come the lawsuits — certain states are still seeking to block ERA from being added to the Constitution. But just as in 1920, when the final state of Tennessee ratified the 19th amendment, those women prevailed — and so will we. We are on the right side of history. We won’t take no for an answer. We will legalize equality for all.