Woman's rights were hotly debated in the 1970s. The Equals Rights Amendment (ERA), which forbade discrimination based on gender in the United States, was approved by Congress in 1972, but was not ratified by enough of the states to be added to the Constitution. The National Woman's Party had first proposed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923.
Even before the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, women's organizations had served many purposes. Professional associations, such as the Virginia Bureau of Vocations for Women, often bridged the gaps between women's private and family lives, their professional careers, and public life where they took part in political debates and decision-making that also affected all aspects of their lives. Active club women helped form and provided the expertise and staff for some of the first social service and public health agencies of Virginia's state and local governments.
This pamphlet advertised an October 1976 nonpartisan event for women hosted by a Richmond Republican women's group. On the agenda were discussions of woman's rights in Virginia, especially property ownership, and inheritance by married women. A panel of experts answered questions, and House of Delegates member Bonnie L. Paul moderated. Paul represented Page, Rockingham, and Shenandoah Counties and the City of Harrisonburg in the House from 1976 to 1979.
Between 1924 and 1933, six women ran successfully for seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, pioneering a wider role for women in Virginia politics. All were Democrats (the majority party in Virginia at the time), and each had a background as a teacher or educator. They were elected not from the heartland of the state but rather from its extremities, the Tidewater, the Southside, and the Southwest. On January 9, 1924, Sarah Lee Fain, representing the city of Norfolk, and Helen T. Henderson, representing Russell and Buchanan Counties, took their seats as the first women elected to the House of Delegates.
For the next eighty years, women slowly entered all branches of local and state government. On March 15, 1950, the General Assembly passed an act allowing women for the first time to serve on trial juries. An act of February 18, 1952, allowed women to serve on grand juries. On July 2, 1962, Eleanor Parker Sheppard was elected mayor of Richmond, the first woman mayor of an incorporated Virginia city. On November 7, 1979, Eva Fleming Scott became the first woman elected to the Senate of Virginia. A Republican, she represented Amelia, Brunswick, Chesterfield, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, and Powhatan Counties. Mary Sue Terry was elected attorney general in November 1985, becoming the first woman elected to statewide office. She was reelected in 1989. The first female federal judge in Virginia was Rebecca Beach Smith. The United States Senate confirmed her to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in October 1989. That same year Elizabeth Bermingham Lacy became the first woman on Virginia's Supreme Court. In 1992 Leslie Larkin Byrne became the first woman from Virginia elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
1. What was the Equal Rights Amendment?
2. What legal or political issues are particularly important to women? Why?
1. Compare and contrast the civil rights movement with the woman's rights movement. What strategies did they employ?
The collection to which this pamphlet belongs contains the papers of Carroll Kem Shackelford, Orange County attorney and counselor-at-law, concerning her legislative activities on the Equal Rights Amendment and other woman's rights legislation. It includes speeches made concerning the Equal Rights Amendment, and materials generated during her service on the Equal Rights Task Force and as counsel to the women legislators of the Virginia General Assembly. Her area of research on the Equal Rights Task Force was family law, examining how the amendment would affect the roles of mother and homemaker.