In this letter to the National Woman's Party, Florence Kitchelt declared her conversion to the party's program of equal rights for women. Formed in 1916 as the Congressional Union and renamed the National Woman's Party (NWP) in 1920, the party focused on the enactment of the Equal Rights Amendment, which it submitted to Congress in 1923. Led by Alice Paul, the NWP dissented from the social justice agenda advocated by the mainstream women's movement, which endorsed special legislation for women. This made the NWP an adversary of the League of Women Voters (LWV), General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC), Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), Women's Trade Union League (WTUL), the National Consumers' League (NCL) and other leading women's organizations. Kitchelt's 1943 letter reflected her frustration with this stand-off and her hope that a third path might prove more productive for women's rights and women's political activism.
League of Nations Association
36 Mansfield St.
New Haven, Connecticut
April 1, 1943
To the Secretary
The National Woman's Party
As one who in the past has disbelieved in the Equal Rights Amendment, and spoken against it, I now wish to retract and join the National Woman's Party, to add that much to the movement for the Amendment.
No special argument, but just life in general has convinced me. The vote, for which I worked, and marched in one of Alice Paul's parades in Washington, gave us an immense lift, but it was not enough. For a long time I have been growingly conscious that "no amount of special benefit to women is good enough to offset the basic damage done to human equality" by continuing to accept for woman a second place in our social structure.
I want to work toward a society in which character wins. The mere possession of wealth and the accident of sex are now too often the determining factors.
And finally I am convinced it will be good for women to protect their own social and economic rights, rather than to be protected. It may stimulate them to a better use of their vote and to political activity.
[signed] Florence L. Cross Kitchelt