Shirley Chisholm: For the Equal Rights Amendment

 

Read the speech by Shirley Chisholm. APA/ Historical Research. add a abstract. My Research Questions. 1. Why women are only allow in the Military Service with Completed High School and High Standards? 2. What women couldn′t do in the 1960s and the 1970s? 3. Why women receive heavier criminal penalties than men who commit the dame crime? if yes, is it true?

Shirley Chisholm
For the Equal Rights Amendment
delivered 10 Aug 1970, Washington, DC.
Mr. Speaker, House Joint Resolution 264, before us today, which provides for equality under
the law for both men and women, represents one of the most clear-cut opportunities we are
likely to have to declare our faith in the principles that shaped our Constitution. It provides a
legal basis for attack on the most subtle, most pervasive, and most institutionalized form of
prejudice that exists. Discrimination against women, solely on the basis of their sex, is so
widespread that is seems to many persons normal, natural and right.
Legal expression of prejudice on the grounds of religious or political belief has become a minor
problem in our society. Prejudice on the basis of race is, at least, under systematic attack.
There is reason for optimism that it will start to die with the present, older generation.

It is time we act to assure full equality of opportunity to those citizens who, although in a
majority, suffer the restrictions that are commonly imposed on minorities, to women.
The argument that this amendment will not solve the problem of sex discrimination is not
relevant. If the argument were used against a civil rights bill — as it has been used in the past
— the prejudice that lies behind it would be embarrassing. Of course laws will not eliminate
prejudice from the hearts of human beings. But that is no reason to allow prejudice to
continue to be enshrined in our laws — to perpetuate injustice through inaction.
The amendment is necessary to clarify countless ambiguities and inconsistencies in our legal
system. For instance, the Constitution guarantees due process of law, in the 5th and 14th
amendments. But the applicability of due process of sex distinctions is not clear: Women are
excluded from some State colleges and universities. In some States, restrictions are placed on
a married woman who engages in an independent business. Women may not be chosen for
some juries. Women even receive heavier criminal penalties than men who commit the same
crime.
What would the legal effects of the equal rights amendment really be?
The equal rights amendment would govern only the relationship between the State and its
citizens — not relationships between private citizens. The amendment would be largely selfexecuting,
that is, and Federal or State laws in conflict would be ineffective one year after
date of ratification without further action by the Congress or State legislatures.
Opponents of the amendment claim its ratification would throw the law into a state of
confusion and would result in much litigation to establish its meaning. This objection overlooks
the influence of legislative history in determining intent and the recent activities of many
groups preparing for legislative changes in this direction.
State labor laws applying only to women, such as those limiting hours of work and weights to
be lifted would become inoperative unless the legislature amended them to apply to men. As
of early 1970, most States would have some laws that would be affected. However, changes
are being made so rapidly as a result of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is likely that
by the time the Equal Rights Amendment would become effective, no conflicting State laws
would remain.

In any event, there has for years been great controversy as to the usefulness to women of
these State labor laws. There has never been any doubt that they worked a hardship on
women who need or want to work overtime and on women who need or want better paying
jobs; and there has been no persuasive evidence as to how many women benefit from the
archaic policy of the laws. After the Delaware hours law was repealed in 1966, there were no
complaints from women to any of the State agencies that might have been approached.
Jury service laws not making women equally liable for jury service would have been revised.
The selective service law would have to include women, but women would not be required to
serve in the Armed Forces where they are not fitted any more than men are required to serve.
Military service, while a great responsibility, is not without benefits, particularly for young men
with limited education or training. Since October 1966, 246,000 young men who did not meet
the normal mental or physical requirements have been given opportunities for training and
correcting physical problems. This opportunity is not open to their sisters. Only girls who have
completed high school and meet high standards on the educational test can volunteer.
Ratification of the amendment would not permit application of higher standards to women.
Survivorship benefits would be available to husbands of female workers on the same basis as
to wives of male workers. The Social Security Act and the civil service and military service
retirement acts are in conflict. Public schools and universities could not be limited to one sex
and could not apply different admission standards to men and women. Laws requiring longer
prison sentences for women than men would be invalid, and equal opportunities for
rehabilitation and vocational training would have to be provided in public correctional
institutions. Different ages of majority based on sex would have to be harmonized. Federal,
State, and other governmental bodies would be obligated to follow nondiscriminatory practices
in all aspects of employment, including public school teachers and State university and college
faculties.
What would be the economic effects of the Equal Rights Amendment?
Direct economic effects would be minor. If any labor laws applying only to women still
remained, their amendment or repeal would provide opportunity for women in better-paying
jobs in manufacturing. More opportunities in public vocational and graduate schools for
women would also tend to open up opportunities in better jobs for women.

Indirect effects could be much greater. The focusing of public attention on the gross legal,
economic, and social discrimination against women by hearings and debates in the Federal
and State legislatures would result in changes in attitude of parents, educators, and
employers that would bring about substantial economic changes in the long run. Sex prejudice
cuts both ways. Men are oppressed by the requirements of the Selective Service Act, by
enforced legal guardianship of minors, and by alimony laws. Each sex, I believe, should be
liable when necessary to serve and defend this country. Each has a responsibility for the
support of children.
There are objections raised to wiping out laws protecting women workers. No one would
condone exploitation. But what does sex have to do with it. Working conditions and hours that
are harmful to women are harmful to men; wages that are unfair for women are unfair for
men. Laws setting employment limitations on the basis of sex are irrational, and the proof of
this is their inconsistency from State to State. The physical characteristics of men and women
are not fixed, but cover two wide spans that have a great deal of overlap. It is obvious, I
think, that a robust woman could be more fit for physical labor than a weak man. The choice
of occupation would be determined by individual capabilities, and the rewards for equal works
should be equal.
This is what it comes down to: artificial distinctions between persons must be wiped out of the
law. Legal discrimination between the sexes is, in almost every instance, founded on
outmoded views of society and the pre-scientific beliefs about psychology and physiology. It is
time to sweep away these relics of the past and set future generations free of them.
Federal agencies and institutions responsible for the enforcement of equal opportunity laws
need the authority of a Constitutional amendment.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1963 Equal Pay Act are not enough; they are limited in their
coverage — for instance, one excludes teachers, and the other leaves out administrative and
professional women. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has not proven to be an
adequate device, with its power limited to investigation, conciliation, and recommendation to
the Justice Department. In its cases involving sexual discrimination, it has failed in more than
one-half.

The Justice Department has been even less effective. It has intervened in only one case
involving discrimination on the basis of sex, and this was on a procedural point. In a second
case, in which both sexual and racial discrimination were alleged, the racial bias charge was
given far greater weight.
Evidence of discrimination on the basis of sex should hardly have to be cited here. It is in the
Labor Department’s employment and salary figures for anyone who is still in doubt. Its
elimination will involve so many changes in our State and Federal laws that, without the
authority and impetus of this proposed amendment, it will perhaps take another 194 years.
We cannot be parties to continuing a delay.
The time is clearly now to put this House on record for the fullest expression of that equality
of opportunity which our Founding Fathers professed. They professed it, but they did not
assure it to their daughters, as they tried to do for their sons. The Constitution they wrote was
designed to protect the rights of white, male citizens. As there were no black Founding
Fathers, there were no founding mothers — a great pity, on both counts. It is not too late to
complete the work they left undone. Today, here, we should start to do so.
In closing, I would like to make one point: Social and psychological effects will be initially
more important than legal or economic results. As Leo Kanowitz has pointed out:
Rules of law that treat of the sexes per se [inevitably] produce far-reaching effects
upon social, psychological and economic aspects of male-female relations beyond the
limited confines of legislative chambers and courtrooms. As long as organized legal
systems, at once the most respected and most feared of social institutions, continue to
differentiate sharply, in treatment or in words, between men and women on the basis
of irrelevant and artificially created distinctions, the likelihood of men and women
coming to regard one another primarily as fellow human beings and only secondarily as
representatives of another sex will continue to be remote. When men and women are
prevented from recognizing one another’s essential humanity by sexual prejudices,
nourished by legal as well as social institutions, society as a whole remains less than it
could otherwise become.1
1 Kanowitz, L. (1969). Women and the Law: The unfinished revolution. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press,
Original Text Source: Congressional Record, 91st Cong., 2d Sess., 1970, 116, pt. 21: 28028-28029. Available online at:
https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/GPO-CRECB-1970-pt21/pdf/GPO-CRECB-1970-pt21-1-2.pdf

Transcription Note: The revised text version above reflects several alterations to the Congressional Record’s version in the areas of editorial
style (e.g., “5th” for “fifth”, oxford commas, points of punctuation) and paragraph organization. These modifications were implemented chiefly to
enhance reading clarity and rhetorical force. All originally recorded content from the Congressional Record has been preserved in substance.

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