Ruth Bader Ginsburg believed that the equal rights of women belonged in the Constitution. She stood on the shoulders of brilliant women who persisted across generations to change the Constitution. We the Women tells their stories, showing what’s at stake in the current battle for the Equal Rights Amendment.
A century after the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteed women the constitutional right to vote, the quest for women’s full inclusion in the US Constitution continues.
After passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, revolutionary women demanded full equality beyond suffrage by proposing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Congress took almost fifty years to adopt it in 1972, and the states took almost as long to ratify it. In January 2020, Virginia became the final state needed to ratify the amendment.
Why did the ERA take so long? Is it too late to add it to the Constitution? And what could it do for women?
Distinguished legal scholar Julie C. Suk tells the story of the ERA through the voices of the bold women lawmakers who created it. They faced opposition and subterfuge at every turn, but they kept the ERA alive. And, despite significant gains, the achievements of gender equality have fallen short, especially for working mothers and women of color. Suk excavates the ERA’s past to guide its future, explaining how the ERA can address hot-button issues such as pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment, and unequal pay.
The rise of movements like the Women’s March and #MeToo have ignited women across the country. Unstoppable women are winning elections, challenging male abuses of power, and changing the law to support working families. Can they add the ERA to the Constitution and improve American democracy?
We the Women shows how the founding mothers of the ERA and the for-gotten mothers of all our children have transformed our living Constitution for the better.
About the Author
JULIE C. SUK is Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law. She has previously taught at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, University of Chicago, UCLA, and Cardozo Law Schools. She is an expert and frequent media commentator on gender and constitutions around the world. She lives in New York City. Follow @JulieCSuk on Twitter.
“Every man I know needs to read this book. Every legislator in America needs to read this book. It’s a compelling examination of the history of the fight for equal rights in our nation dating back to our earliest days and making an undeniable case for the necessity of the Equal Rights Amendment in the twenty-first century.”
—ALYSSA MILANO, actress and political activist
“We talk as if only men make constitutions. Julie Suk changes this. She introduces us to the diverse cast of women constitution makers who supported, and opposed, the Equal Rights Amendment over the last century. Their quest showcases concerns missing in standard accounts of the Founding, and shows us how these concerns differed among women and over time. Essential reading for those interested in the future of gender justice.”
—REVA SIEGEL, Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Professor, Yale Law School
“Julie Suk’s We the Women is a fascinating and nuanced recounting of the history of the ERA. It brings to light the many women who made constitutional equality for women across generations, highlighting complexities not widely known; documents the unending opposition; and showcases the potential of the ERA’s meaning for the twenty-first century. It will soon be recognized as the go-to resource for the ERA’s long legislative history.”
—LOUISE MELLING, Deputy Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union
“Meticulously researched and compulsively readable, We the Women draws important connections between the past and present, making clear how, despite long odds and many obstacles, generations of women have come together to debate and demand the conditions necessary for a more perfect union.”
—MELISSA MURRAY, Frederick I. & Grace Stokes Professor of Law, NYU School of Law
“In We the Women, Julie Suk shows us that the Equal Rights Amendment at its core was—and still is—about freedom and power. The mothers of the ERA laid the groundwork of the battle waging in this country today, and though this campaign can feel long and arduous, We the Women has left me more hopeful.”
—FATIMA GOSS GRAVES, President and CEO, National Women’s Law Center
“Smart, readable, incisive. Required reading for anyone who wants to understand why we need the ERA. A must for students, activists, and anyone simply wanting to know the history of this hundred-year long fight. We The Women resurrects a diverse and brilliant cast of ERA foremothers. Suk gives us the ERA America needs right now—an amendment that takes into account the realities of motherhood, sexual harassment, and unequal pay. Suk convincingly persuades us that this essential recognition of women's equal standing in the nation has been denied too long—and is, at long last, within our grasp.”
—KIRSTEN SWINTH, author of Feminism’s Forgotten Fight: The Unfinished Struggle for Work and Family and Professor of History at Fordham University
“We the Women provides a riveting and nuanced history of women's fight for equality and enfranchisement in the United States. Julie Suk brilliantly threads together early suffragist movements with the continued fight for women's constitutional equality and ratification of the ERA. This timely book should be a companion to all readings on voting rights and in the hands of all students and readers of constitutional law.”
—MICHELE GOODWIN, Chancellor’s Professor, UC-Irvine, and author of Policing the Womb