Document 12H: Pauli Murray to Alma Lutz, 15 March 1966, Mary Eastwood Papers, 1915-1982, Box 5, Folder 56, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. 2 pp.


   One month after the White v. Crook decision, Murray wrote to Lutz to share her views about the impact of the case on the women's movement, including rumors that NWP members were concerned that the decision would hurt the chances of congressional passage of the ERA. She reassured Lutz that the work of the NWP had not been in vain and acknowledged its firmness of purpose in keeping the ERA alive through the decades.

March 15, 1966

Dear Miss Lutz:

   I hope you received a copy of the White v. Crook brief which I asked ACLU to send you. Miss Elsie Hill of South Norwalk, Conn. telephoned me asking for a copy and it occurred to me that you might wish to see one too. We are not very proud of it because a significant portion is missing; was delayed in the mail; consequently, the Negro point and the woman point are run together without adequate separation of points. But, obviously, the case for women was so strong that even our confused brief did not deter the court in ruling properly on the issue.

   The enclosed Memorandum pays homage to the women who have fought for equal rights down the years. There is a movement in embryo to reconcile the various points of view within women's groups and to give honor to the pioneers who have kept the issue before the public. This is a salutary by-product of the White v. Crook victory. I suggested your name as one of those to be invited to Washington, but the list has been reduced from 40 to about 10, so they may not select more than one representative. I do hope Miss Alice Paul will accept.

   As you may know, on March 7, 20 Republicans introduced identical bills on the jury issue, including sex as well as race. The bills are HR. 13323-13342. On March 10, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights also agreed to recommend the inclusion of "sex" in the legislation they have sponsored: S. 2923.

   I see our battle as one on many fronts: thus, no legislation dealing with civil rights in Congress should be overlooked to be sure that, where appropriate, sex is included along with other prohibited bases of discrimination. I say "where appropriate" to indicate that there are some pieces of legislation dealing with the protection of Negroes and civil rights workers from violence in which the issues of sex is not involved.

   I am also troubled by rumors that some women of the National Woman's Party persuasion have feared that the White v. Crook decision would hurt the chances of passage of an Equal Rights Amendment. Here, let me say candidly that we are all after a specific result: equal rights without discrimination on the basis solely of sex. If we can get it by court decision, we'll take it. If the Supreme Court should give a negative decision under the Fourteenth Amendment, then the implication is clear.

[p. 2]

There would be a constitutional gap which would have to be filled by a constitutional amendment. Since the Supreme Court has not spoken definitively on this issue for more than 30 years, we must try to find a way of getting the issue before the Court. I feel sure that had White v. Crook been a Supreme Court instead of a lower Federal Court decision, even the adherents to the view that we need an Equal Rights Amendment would reflect upon the position of the women who said all along: the Fourteenth Amendment applies to women as well as all other groups, and the courts were wrong.

   What I am trying to say here is that your efforts and the efforts of the National Woman's Party have not been wasted. But for your insistence upon an Equal Rights Amendment, the gradual erosion of discriminatory legislation would not have occurred. The only distance in view which separates us is whether we have not chipped away so many of the barriers which faced women in 1920, that we can get rid of the rest by court decision and federal legislation, or whether the remaining barriers are so formidable as to require a new Amendment. I opt for the Fourteenth which contains the all-inclusive word "person" and has a wealth of precedents upon which we can rely rather than the uphill fight to get a new Amendment which has no precedents and which the courts could twist into the same discriminatory bias as they originally did with the 14th Amendment both as to Negroes and women.

   If you and others of the National Woman's Party could support us in this effort while pursuing your own independent goals, I believe the women of the country would be united and could win hands down. We are more powerful than many of us realize; we need only to maximize our strength. I do not believe any court today would dare rule that Negro males were in a more favored position under the Constitution than white women. I do not think any lawyer has had the audacity to put the issue to the courts in exactly this language. If I get the opportunity, I intend to pose it just that way, and let the courts fish or cut bait.

   I took your Susan B. Anthony with me to Washington and my co-author, Mary Eastwood, is reading it before mailing it back to me. I'm sure it will be a treat for me when I get back to it.

   And now, all the best. Please keep in touch. As you know, my philosophy is continuity and inclusiveness and it is an honor to be associated with women of courage and conviction and of whose efforts I am a beneficiary.


Miss Alma Lutz
22 River Street


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