Activist Alice Paul was the author of the “Lucretia Mott Amendment” and the first to propose what would later become the Equal Rights Amendment to Congress in 1923. The amendment, informally named after women’s rights pioneer Lucretia Mott, wasn’t ratified until almost 50 years later in 1972.
A civil rights activist of the early nineteenth century, Lucretia Mott was among the most influential historical figures in terms of women’s rights and the abolitionist movement. A talented orator and public speaker, Mott was an early rebel against slavery, boycotting slave-produced goods and services and eventually joining ‘radical’ anti-slavery parties such as William Lloyd Garrison’s American Anti-Slavery Society.
In addition to her dedication to human rights, Mott spearheaded the women’s rights movement alongside notable figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton. A major leader and organizer for the historically significant Seneca Falls Convention in New York of 1848, Mott was a real visionary for women in early colonial America.
Mott’s impressive legacy continues to affect the future of social reform and human rights in American society. Heavily influenced by her legacy was fellow Quaker and suffragist Alice Paul (1885-1977). A successor of Mott’s social activism, Paul became a prominent leader in the gender equality movements of the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. Paul’s work with the National Woman’s Party of 1916 and the National American Woman Suffrage Association resulted in the introduction of the 19th Amendment.
Throughout her career, Paul cited Mott as an inspiration and continued to fight for legislative changes in Washington in the name of equality. Paul first introduced the Equal Rights Amendment, or the Lucretia Mott Amendment, during the 1923 celebration of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. The amendment stated, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.”
Since its initial public introduction in 1923, Paul continued to fight tirelessly for the amendment’s constitutional legitimization until her death in 1977. The amendment continued to be a topic of heated discussion at every Congressional session until it was finally passed on March 22, 1972 and sent for state ratification. The amendment failed to achieve the required 38-state ratification within the seven-year time limit, and although Congress afforded the amendment an extension, the amendment still only produced a 35-state ratification by the 1980s.
Due to the amendment’s ratification failure, activists have continued to fight for Congressional recognition throughout the late twentieth century. While the Lucretia Mott Amendment has not officially been recognized in the U.S. Constitution, its principles are conveyed in the form of subsequent legislations, such as those stating that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.”
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