Document 9: Percy Maxim Lee to Florence L. C. Kitchelt, 20 July 1943, Florence Ledyard Cross Kitchelt Papers, 1885-1961, A-61, Box 6, Folder 167, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Percy Maxim (Mrs. John G.) Lee from Forty Years of a Great Idea (Washington,
D.C.: National League of Women Voters, 1960), p. 42.


   Percy Lee's letter explains why the League of Women Voters continued to oppose the National Woman's Party and the Equal Rights Amendment. She quoted extensively from a statement by the national league office, which said that the ERA would "raise doubts as to the status of existing protective legislation." Percy Lee (1906-2008) was elected to the board of the national league in 1944 and served four terms as its president, 1950-1958. She was president of the league's Overseas Education Fund, which encouraged political activity among women abroad, from 1959 to 1964.

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July 20, 1943

Mrs. Florence L. C. Kitchelt
51 Mill Rock Road
New Haven, Connecticut

Dear Mrs. Kitchelt:

    I was vary much interested in your letter and the enclosed material on the Equal Rights Amendment. I am sure you know the League as well, if not better than I do, so there is no need to call to your attention the relationship of the state to the national organization. It means, of course, that the state only operates in the field of federal legislation at the direction of the National League. The State Board has discussed the National's position in this matter and heartily concurs.

    Enclosed you will find a broadside on this amendment which was issued several months ago. It is still substantially the case, for the rewriting of the bill does not change the issue to any great degree. The following excerpt from a communication from the National League office bears this out:

"Practically all the comments we have received on the new draft of the equal rights amendment indicate that it is open to many of the same objections that have led the League to oppose the amendment during all these years. The new provision that ‘Congress and the several states shall have the power, within their respective jurisdictions, to enforce this article by appropriate legislation’ is designed to answer the charge that if ratified the original equal rights amendment would do violence to the political system embodied in our Constitution; it seems to eliminate the objection that the Congress would be authorized to lay down uniform rules as to matters hitherto considered exclusively of local concern. The objection that it would create confusion and uncertainty is not answered. Dean Acheson, now Assistant Secretary of State, who appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to the original proposal in 1938 before he was associated with the Department of State, now says: ‘The main reason for my opposing the amendment in its original form was that its enactment would cause confusion. It seems to me that in its present form it is subject to the same objection. Its adoption would raise issues as to the difference between rights and duties and invite litigation on such questions. It would introduce uncertainty with respect to existing legal rights and existing legal duties and raise doubts as to the status of existing protective legislation. As I pointed out in my testimony in 1938, existing inequalities should be remedied by legislation, not by constitutional amendment if confusion is to be avoided."

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    I hope this explains the League stand to your satisfaction. It is the reason for our being unable to cooperate with those who are supporting the amendment. We simply do not believe it to be wise or necessary legislation.

Sincerely yours,
[signed] Percy Maxim Lee
Mrs. John G. Lee


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