Document 29A: Florence L. C. Kitchelt, "The Equal Rights Amendment," The New Republic, 17 Dec. 1945, pp. 840-41.


   Florence Kitchelt's letter to The New Republic argued that the U.S. Senate adopted the ERA when it approved "the Charter of the United Nations," which called for "the equal rights of men and women." Founded in 1914 by Herbert Croly and Walter Lippmann, with financial backing from Dorothy Payne Whitney and Willard Straight, The New Republic represented progressive political opinion. To balance Kitchelt's letter, the editors recruited a statement from Anna Lord Strauss, President of the National League of Women Voters. (See Document 29B) Strauss argued that the U.N. Charter was "an entirely different matter" than the ERA, because "the principles in the Charter do not abrogate the laws of the signatory nations," as presumably the ERA would abrogate state laws. For more on the ERA debate in this period, see the document project, "Who Won the Debate over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1920s?" also on this web site.

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The Equal-Rights Amendment

SIR: We should like to outline briefly the present status of the Equal-Rights Amendment. It was endorsed in the national platforms of both major parties, and the Judiciary Committee, which reported it favorably in the Seventy-eighth Congress, is repeating the routine of sending the resolution first to a subcommittee.

    May I venture to suggest, however, that the Senate in very truth already has adopted the amendment? When it ratified the Charter of the United Nations, it affirmed its faith

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in "the equal rights of men and women," a phrase and a principle written into the preamble and into five chapters of the Charter.

    Reduced to simple terms, the proposed amendment is nothing more or less than an addition to the American Bill of Rights. It says "equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex." This principle has been set in the Charter, as a standard for every civilized country. We are dealing with a historic process. Aristotle always coupled the words "women and slaves." Mazzini declared "long prejudice . . . and a perennial legal inequality . . ." had oppressed women. Susan B. Anthony campaigned for more than votes: she asked for "equality of rights, civil and political," the right to the franchise being but one.

    It was said in your "Washington Notes" last spring that certain national organizations are opposed to the amendment, for instance the AFL. But the AFL has enthusiastically backed the Charter, which proposes "fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to sex."

    The claim of the opposition that women will lose needed protection under the law is not one held either by congressmen who support the amendment or by legal authorities with whom I have talked. Former Senator Guy Gillette said, "I do not believe there is a lawyer anywhere in the United States who would construe [the amendment] as taking away, except in unusual instances, the protective legislative acts which have been placed on the statute books." Similar, even stronger, statements have been made by authorities on the Constitution and on labor legislation, like Dr. Edwin Borchard and Dr. E. Wight Bakke of Yale, by the former Attorney General of the United States, Homer Cummings, by lawyers like David Stock and Sanford Stoddard, etc.

    Yes, Mr. Editor, it is true that many notable people oppose the amendment. May it not be because they are absorbed in their work in other fields? The president of Harvard, Charles W. Eliot, and the great statesman, Elihu Root, opposed giving the vote to women. Mr. Root said he could protect his own wife and daughters, and preferred to. So doth sentiment obscure reason, at times, even among the wisest, be they individuals or national organizations.

Connecticut Committee for the Equal Rights Amendment

New Haven, Conn.

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