tv This Happened MSNBC March 3, 2019 6:00pm-7:01pm PST
which explores whether now might be the right time to revisit the equal rights amendment. for now, good night from washington. \s \s "this happened" "this happened" i am woman, hear me roar. >> i know we have still not shattered that glass ceiling. but someday someone will. >> call it an up rising. and a revolution. >> 2018 is proving to be the year of the woman. >> record number of female candidates running for office. >> women across this nation smashed barriers. at least 110 women won their
congressional races. >> i'm here because i believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me. women across the nation are demanding change. >> what do we want? quadrillion rights? when do we want it. now? >> for as long as their's been a nation there's been inequality between men and women. .8. >> we have to get our rights in stone. >> fifty years ago another fight for equal rights divided the country. >> the killing of unborn babies. >> sexual perversion what. a disgrace. >> i don't want to be a --. i want to a mother and a housewife. >> the battle lines were drawn. >> it became a rallying cry.
>> the senate voted 84-8 to approve a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights to women. >> prematurely victorious. they said we won. ha, not exactly. >> every generation has to fight for freedom and equality. >> what do we want? when do we want it? ♪ this is mary mcdonald. sna age? well old enough to be the mother of those three. profession? that's part of it right there.
chauffeur and shopper keeps her going part of the day. >> women in the 1960 were like caricatures trapped in a glossy magazine ad. the average woman those days was homemakers and housewives. that was the majority of women. even women who had a lot of education and professions they were expected to get married. only men worked for pay. women were expected not to. >> i thought i had three choices. i could be a nurse. i could be a teacher or i could be a librarian. those were the women role models that i saw. >> in the 1960s, fewer than 40% of women held jobs. those who did earned less than 60 cents for every dollar made by a man. women could be fairired if they became pregnant. weren't entitled to their own
credit cards. couldn't serve on juries in some states, and weren't admitted into top universities. >> there were large numbers of american women able to live under the american dream for women, which was you dedicate your whole life to the success of your husband and children. however a lot of attention was being given to the fact that there were high rates of depression among women like this. and high rate of valium use or alcohol and newspapers were full of stories about what's wrong with american women. >> in 1963, magazine writer quietly published a book that rapidly became a best seller and in the process sparked an age of modern feminism. >> really important books often don't say something that known had thought before but they said
something everyone had an incoherent yearning to say. and she ended the feminine mystique. gave people the vocabulary they could carry into politics. >> the feminine mystique showed there was this wide spread discontent and disillusionment among women with the limited roles they foul shot we are acceptable. >> when these women read the book each one of them felt liberated by the knowledge that they weren't the only ones that felt that way. and it set off an amazing movement. >> join us. women, join us. >> suddenly thousands of nice women took to the streets protesting demanding economic rights and political powers. just like the minority movements of the sixties. >> the women's movement owed everything to the civil rights movement. the 1960s was a decade which
sent the message that equality is indivisible. >> congresswoman chisholm sat at the intersection. she saw what oppression looked like from all sides and conspired a wide coalition of women to come together and create real sustained social change for all american women. >> women were active in the civil rights movement and learned that you can make a difference, that you can stand up for yourself, that we need to bring these demands to the street, to congress. we need to speak out loud and we need to make our voices heard. >> the battle cry rings out down 10th avenue in a one day strike
for equal rights. >> what was bothering women was basic -- daily interactions of equality. .7. >> why the movement is accelerating now. they resent the way women are played as sexual play things. conditioned to believe their sole reason for existence is to snare and service men. >> in 1965 a supreme court ruling made oral contraception, the pill, legal if all fifty states. >> when you could take a pill and not have to deal with getting pregnant, then that was like sexual freedom for women. and they started to actually live the way they felt. >> the women's movement was picking up steam and made headlines around the country.
in 1966 now national organization for women, was established to lead the effort. the new group quickly endorsed an amendment to the united states constitution. one that loanguished in politicl debate since it was first introduced in congress in 1923. the equal rights amendment, equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or bridged by the united states or by any state on account of sex. >> at the beginning of the women's movement both parties were supporting the women's rights movement. >> it was widely seched and not yet really politicized in a super parton way. >> and there were active feminists in each party.super p >> and there were active feminists in each party. >> to the work of many of my more foresighted sisters i no longer accept societies judgment that my group is second class. >> gloria steinem was from
central casting for women's rights movement. here comes a woman who could articulate literally all of the demands of the woman's rights movement. everybody had to sit back and take notice. >> it helped that she was great looking because men will listen to beautiful women. i think it helped that she's a great journalist. so she can express herself in words and not just when she gets up to speak. >> steinham co-founded ms. magazine. >> many people felt that when steinem became part of the movement it was just what was need at the time. >> joining her, a young doctoral student, who was also a wife and homemaker. >> i remember the first time i saw a button that said "feminism
lives." i just loved that button. it was what it was about. they were saying to --. era became a rallying cry. >> a cry that would also give rise to a powerful opposition, led by a solitary relentless figure. >> in presenting the equal rights amendment, they recite a tiresome tear jerking litany of past discriminations that have long since been resolved. >> ultra conservative and mother of six, phylis schlafly. craftsmanship craftsmanship nice. but, uh... what's up with your... partner?
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last month 75 feminists occupied the statue of liberty in new york harbor and declared they would stay there until congress passed a constitutional amendment for women's rights. they chose the statue to draw attention to the irony of a female symbolizing liberty when no women in america was free. >> by 1970 the equal rights debate and notion for a formal proposal for an amendment escalated into a national conversation. >> we're fed up with all the old traditions what women can do. we want equal rights. we want the passage of the equal rights amendment now. >> for that to happen the proposal would have to make its way through a male-dominated congress. just 11 of the senators were women. but they maid up for lack of numbers in fierce determination.
headlines across the nation. >> we have a hot election coming up. i explained that to you before. we are organizing a political movement. we think that any man or woman that votes against equal rights amendment may find it very difficult to return to political life. that is how he intend to --. >> in the spring of that year an obscure senate sub committee dealing with constitutionality amendments began hearings on the era. >> what we're trying to do is provide equal education. equal pay for equal work. equal opportunity to succeed or fail in our society for our daughters as well as our sons. >> but women had been here before. many times. in 1923 the feminists of that era the suffragettes were the first version e of the amendment.
>> they were brilliant. they had two goals. one was to gain the right to vote for which other powers would come to women through their vote and to pass the equal rights amendment so that women's rights were protected in the constitution. >> equal rights amendment is the most proposed constitutional amendment ever in american history. some version of that amendment was brought up from 1923 until 1971. >> but 1971 presented a vastly different social and political landscape. >> if you were a politician at the time you saw this huge wave of women who represent over 50% of your voting base and constituents and you said okay i better get on this wave. >> the advocates behind the era were confident they could finally get this thing passed. >> and of course the way that a constitutional amendment works,
you have to have two-thirds of each house of congress and then you have to have the three-fourths of the states to ratify. >> in october of that year the house of representatives passed joint resolution 208. the equal rights amendment. >> after so many years of being considered in congress, the house of representatives passes it by overwhelming numbers. in fact nothing so symbolized just how strong the women's rights movement was. >> five months later on march 22, 1972 the senate followed suit passing the equal rights amendment. >> in the historic decision the senate voted 84-8 to approve a constitutionality amendment caring equal rights to women.
>> what was important was the overwhelming majority of the house and senate. almost 90% in both houses for the equal rights amendment which takes two-thirds of the equal rights amendment. imagine that happening today and for that matter the reason we have so few amendments is because of the difficult of getting that kind of super majority for anything. >> the pronates of the equal rights amendment were prematurely victorious. they said we won. ha, not exactly. but they felt the hard part was over getting it through congress. but that was the easy part. >> that confidence led to what seemed a minor but rare
concession included in the deal. >> the principle opponent in the senate was sam irvin from north carolina. sbh someone who previously opposed equal rights on the basis of race and was now leading the charge against equal rights on the basis of gender. >> doesn't the existence of the human race on this earth depend on physiological and functional differences between men and women? >> sam irvin was very shrewd. he convinced the overconfident sponsors of the equal rights amendment to insert a seven year deadline. if it didn't get ratified by three-fourths of the states within that seven year period the amendment would die. >> male opponents in the senate called it the unisex amendment.
they said it would destroy traditional male/woman relationships. weaken family ties. increase homosexuality, violate biblical teaches and undermine states laws designed to protect women's rights. >> it wasn't just member in the senate rallying against the equal rights amendment. a large faction of women felt alienated. >> some of the loudest voices in favor of the equal rights amendment were really degraded towards homemakers and women who made the choice to be home. >> i want to be a mother and housewife. >> i'm very sorry, i don't like it. >> they would use language calling housewives comfortable prostitutes of a comfortable concentration camp.
>> a large number of americans said you are insulting me. i'm not impressed. i'm insulted. that was a great motivator. >> in the divide between tradition and change phylis schlafly saw saw a moment and seized it. >> this movement and their constitutional goals. their legislative goals. their political goals. their propaganda goals as anti-family. >> cultural cons tiervatism as now define and understand is rekindled in the 1970 business one woman. one activist and that is phylis schlafly. >> she represented a different political philosophy about there is a place for men and there is a place for women. so if you are a church going wife in middle america who's husband runs a hardware store downtown you are probably going say phylis speaks for me. >> despite having graduated from rat cliff in 1945 and earning a
degree in law. schlafly was the quintessential anti-feminist. she believed in traditional roles for men and women. while she ran for congress twice and lost, she built a following of women with like-minded believes. >> phyllis really took advantages of the technology available to her at the day. she began writing the phyllis schlafly report. >> every month she wrote a different issue. usually national defense and communism until this issue and then she started writing more about family and feminism. >> she said that she was fighting for the soul of the nation. what it stood for and what its future could be. >> america is great because she is good and if america ever ceases to be good she will cease to be great. this is our challenge and we need your dedication to the task. thank you.
>> my mother's ultimate goal was not that she would be famous and powerful. my mother's ultimate goal was to save the country. downs and then i have to rely on my mom to come pick me up from work. we need to be connected on a regular basis. sometimes i get hundreds of texts from her and i'm like stop. i owe everything to her. she's my world. i love you mom. i love you too. (vo) there for you when it matters most. unlimited on the best network now includes apple music and a samsung galaxy, on us. all starting at $40. only on verizon.
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1972 shifting attitudes towards women were reflected everywhere. from commercials to congress. >> after 1972 it seems unstoppable. it sealed like common sense to a lot of people and states just began ratifying it left and right. >> in its first year of consideration, 22 states jumped to ratify the era. in 1973 is same year abortion rights were settled in row v. wade, eight more states signed on. but in 1974 the number fell to three. and in '75, north dakota was the only state that voted to
approve. white house support became a critical consideration. >> let 1975, international women's year be the year that e.r.a. is ratified. >> betty ford was very much a feminist and supporter of the equal rights amendment. and row v. wade. >> before i sign this, betty, if you have any words of wisdom or encouragement, you are welcome the speak. >> glad to see you have come a long long way mr. president. >> betty ford got on the phone and called. and drove phyllis schlafly enough.
and she began to picket outside the white house. >> she was in the streets, in your home, on your television. she was at your local rotary club. she organized opposition. >> i thought what i might do is to run through the arguments that we present against the equal rights amendment. >> she had her offices over the garage right outside her home. and often worked from the living room. she could literally organize on that phone in the kitchen. two phones cooked in and serve the kids. and do three, four things at a time. >> women always work. if you have a baby you are working. women work. this is something my mother said many, many times. part of her point was not to denigrate the work that is done in the home. is to say that it is work of value. >> a lot of us very happy having a partner who is willing to go
to the office every day and bring home the bread so that we can decide what to do with it. >> schlafly's main argument against the e.r.a. was that got had created men and women differently on purpose that each had their own roles and they should be proud to be women. that what they were doing was protecting not only the traditional home but also the morality of the nation. >> for feminists, they couldn't stand it. here was this woman talking with her bouffant hair style that was something out of 1950s. the more they saw of phyllis schlafly, the more and more outraged they became. >> i'd also like to thank my husband fred for letting me come to be with you today. somehow the people i debate seem to be more irritated by that line than anything else say. >> during the frenetic pace of the e.r.a. fight may mother
debated many times. and what i saw was fact versus emotion. >> the reason why you need the constitution when it was written, women weren't treated as anybody. we weren't in the constitution. and we have a right to be in it. that's a fact. >> oh come on. now, look, if you don't think women were in the constitution, read it and you will find that men aren't in the constitution either. the constitution does not mention the word "man" or "woman." in the constitution, the constitution uses nothing but sex neutral words. citizen, person, resident. look, go read it for yourself. don't take my word for it. every noun in the constitution, women can be equally with men. president's senators. vice presidents and so forth. >> if that was true, why did we have to amend it to give women the right to vote? >> you disagreed fundamentally on many issues.
but certainly on women's issues. e here was a lawyer. that women should be educated and stay home. she was the reverse of what she was talking about. >> it is a shame that the feminists really i think misunderstood her message. she was not ante women's rights. phyllis reiterated over and over she believed women had choices. >> the threats she saw in the equal rights amendment were there would be no benefit to women but there would be a great detriment. >> e.r.a. supporters accused proponents of the equal rights amendment of horror stories. things like women being drafted into combat. women being left without a right to be supported if their husbands left them. >> and they would never be able to keep their children after they were divorced. it was just fighting against a vision of future change that was hard to get your finger around
exactly what it was going to be. >> if you picked up a women's magazine the lay day or two. 36 have editorials or story about the e.r.a. and the reason is e.r.a. is believed to be in trouble. >> to say this was hard fought is an understatement. we had the majority of the population in state after state and in district after district. that didn't matter. but only thing that mattered were the handful of legislators who were voting on it. >> not a single state voted to ratify in 1976. then in january of 1977, indiana became the 35th state to approve with the deadline for the amendment just two years away and three states shy of passage, another president was asked to weigh in. >> i do hooesh proclaim august 26, 1977 as women's equality
day. i further urge all our people to dedicate themselves to the goal of achieving equal rights for women under the law. >> support from washington went beyond a simple proclamation. 5 million dollars in federal funds were allocated for a national women's conference to be held that your in houston. >> women were a arriving from every state and territory in the nation. >> tomorrow the 1400 delegates to the convention begin wrangling with issues dividing women and men all across the country. those issues are abortion, homosexuality and the equal rights amendment. >> this is the cause that we will make women and men equal in the greatness of america. thank you very much. >> not to be outdone. schlafly organized a counterconference on the same day, in the same city, just a
few short miles away. >> my mother felt the deck was stacked against the people of her viewpoint. so she put on an alternative conference that day. >> it was just as loud. just as passionate. phillies schlafly and her followers had come to houston for a battle over principles and if future of the women's movement. >> home sexuality, lesbianism or prostitution shall not be glorified as the laws in society. all in favor say aye. tuit is here to change this story... with giant solutions like turbotax, quickbooks and mint that give everyone the power to prosper. intuit. proud makers of turbotax, quickbooks and mint.
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breaking news we're following, at least 14 people are dead, some of them children, after tornados swept through lee county, alabama today. the death toll could rise with numerous people still missing. and search and rescue crews struggling to get the hardest hit areas. the storms have destroyed numerous homes and left
thousands of residents without power. we'll update this story throughout the night. now back to "this happened." in houston there is a huge meeting of women. two meetings actually. the first national women's conference paid for by the federal government to make recommendations to the congress and the president about making men and women equal. >> the women's movement has become an indestructible part of american life. >> and across town another meeting of people who don't like what's going on in the first meeting. >> there are many differences between this meeting and the one in that other hall today. >> for three day, phyllis schlafly's conservative army and 15,000 feminists brought their battle to houston. >> it seemed that we were well on our way. and that is the feeling i had. in houston. >> feminists had such an
enormous turnout. including some of the most famous distinguished women, above all the three first ladies. >> it reminded me of power and possibilities. it had amazing feeling of progress. >> it was incredibly inspiring to the participants. but the other side was really angry. >> to see three former first ladies of this nation, excuse me, two former first ladies and the current wife of the president of the united states all sitting properly with their hands in their laps and stand being their very presence longest of -- approving of sexual perversion and the murder of young people in their mother's womb. what a disgrace. >> celebrate womenhood and women power. let us make this the beginning of making democracy the thing it
should be and should have been 200 years ago. >> i'm here where we are not ashamed and not afraid to ask god's blessing on this crowd assembled here today. >> the working woman demanding she get the same pay and promotion opportunities as a man. >> do you know what they do in abortion is they simply take the lovely baby from its national habitat and they rip it out. and they throw it away. >> it is a divorced woman fighting for social security benefits. it is the woman running for public office. the woman on welfare looking for a decent part of american society. >> the equal rights amendment says if you want to deny a marriage license to a man and a man, or deny a homosexual the right to teach in the schools or to adopt children, it is on the
account of sex that you would deny it. and that would be unconstitutional under e.r.a. >> you can look on that coverage as one o those moments that happens in every great social movement. while it was supposed to be sort of a celebration and a rallying around the cause, it was in fact a moment that marked that the cause was moving on to a different level and things were going to be more complicated. >> we wanted to pass a more aggressive agenda. and we did. we took the first major public position on gay and lesbian rights. >> that was fantastic because of inclusion but my second thought was, is this going to help win the e.r.a.? >> the movement for the equal rights amendment really took on a much more radical character. >> so being for equal rights wasn't what the equal rights amendment was about. it was being for a entire
liberal agenda. and people said oh, well in that case count me out. >> feminists -- once again played into phyllis schlafly's hands. and suddenly the republicans were going to discover a new constituency out there. it is what's often called the religious right. and that was going to dominate republican politics for the next two or three decades. >> the plight of the homemaker. once the foundation of the feminist movement now seemed a quaint rallying cry. the argument firmly shifted to abortion and gay rights. on those polarizing issues, america would now decide the fate of the e.r.a. >> at this time, america, we will not be denied.
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danielle, this one's for you. 1972 congress guay tgave th states seven years. that's next march and only 35 of the states have approved. the question now is whether to gets the states still more time. >> ratification was in serious doubt. the seven year ticking time bomb put in place by sam irvin and seized on by phyllis schlafly's conservative following undermined the support that once stoked the movement. the amendment still stood three
states short of ratification. worse, four other states were attempting to rescind their endorsements. extending the deadline became the focus. >> i want every person here in this audience to think what can i do in the next week to make equality a possibility. >> if they want us to become the radicals they fear we are, just let them stop the e.r.a. and we will become those radicals. >> 400,000 people sent telegrams to the house to pass the extension. >> president carter campaigned hard for the e.r.a. he helped win from congress an unprecedented three year extension for the ratification. >> they get the extension to 1982. but feminists in their platform are saying we want the equal rights amendment but we also
want abortion. we also want gay rights. all these issues are now in the platform too. it gives ammunition for the ante e.r.a. side. it says you are signing up for a cultural movement that is going change the country in some major ways you may not be comfortable. >> phyllis schlafly and the religious right relentlessly fanned the flames surround those flash points. >> a direct attack on our family, on our morals, on our culture. >> we murdered 7 million defenseless babies in america. we now rank right alongside adolf hitler and other mass murderers of history. >> the extension helped phyllis schlafly. she had the expertise and the contribute to make use of that extra time. >> i remember traveling with my mother to meet with ronald rag in in either late '97 or early '80 and she laid out why he had to oppose e.r.a. and he listened
to her. >> six predecessors of mine called for this guarantee of women's right. governor reagan and the new republican party has departed from this commitment. >> yes. mr. preponderate, once agasiden happen to be against the amendment because i think the amendment will take this problem out of the hands of elected legislators and put it in the hands of unelected judges. >> i knew the minute reagan won that we were in terrible trouble. >> it was january of 1981. the e.r.a. deadline was only subpoena mon17 months away. >> down to the wire, close to be ratified but still not there. >> the equal rights amendment received another crippling blow. >> all three states rejected the measure. >> no. >> florida senate defeated it for the fifth time. >> no. >> chances for success are seen as very slim. >> 16 aye, 22 nays, mr. president.
the chimes strike at midnight for ratification at the equal rights amendment. at that moment it becomes doa. >> not a single state voted to ratify the amendment. on june 30, 1982 the equal rights amendment officially died. the chicago tribune which has been our most bitter and vigorous opponent throughout these ten years stated the equal rights amendment failed because it's backers were out organized out thought and out poloticed. >> the irony is this amendment that was supposed to empower women was stopped by one
powerful woman. >> the defeat of the era was a tremendous blow to all of the people who had invested so much time and effort into it. >> when you get that close, the wind was blown out. >> there's days you get really discouraged. this is not easy. it's a lot of work. >> some of the issues may have been counter productive to the era. if you say to the opponents of abortion that that may come with the era, have you helped yourself or hurt yourself? it wasn't very strategic. >> the way the country felt about the lgbtq community in those days was not good. maybe we didn't help by being included. maybe we should have waited to get the era in place. >> what made the era such a seemingly easy sell at the
beginni beginning is what doomed it. it's simplicity. >> it's a poorly worded amendment. era is so broad as to allow all kinds of interpretations. >> all it means is equality for everyone. this is easy peasy. equality. peasy equality ♪ your grace. your majesty. your king. a legacy of leaders, speeders and serpent feeders. the alfa romeo giulia, stelvio and c37. yeah, i thought doing some hibachi grilling would help take my mind off it all. maybe you could relieve some stress by calling geico for help with our homeowners insurance.
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equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the united states or by any state on account of sex. >> 24 simple words that proved an impossible hurdle for the country to clear in 1982. in a decade since, feminists continued to fight for equality, reintroducing the equal rights amendment before every session of congress.
even in defeat, the era's principles of inclusion and equality have in some measure seen success. >> many of the reasons why the era was defeated is no longer a reality in our life. they argued that women would be in the military. well, women are already in the military. then they said it would empower the lesbian and gay community. well, the lesbian and gay community has been more effective in passing bills and court decisions and moving their rights forward than women have. >> we already see momentum building in ways well beyond what got it started. we're seeing men leave the house of representatives in large numbers and our cup runneth over with women to replace them. that's a seat change. >> she became one of the most
powerful women in the conservative movement, using her influence in the 2016 election just months before her death. >> we have the best conservative platform we have ever had and he enforces it, he will stand by it, he is a real conservative and i ask you to support him. >> there is the possibility that this movement that swung up in the wake of donald trump's election as president might look at this and say oh, by the way, we never did get the era. why is that? is that something we should pursue. >> they have never been able to articulate what it will actually do. what benefit it can actually provide women that isn't already provided by current law. >> i think we're finding out in today's political climate that many rights once granted can be taken away when the political climate changes.
there doesn't seem to be eun anonymous agreement. >> if a constitution does not require sexual discrimination on the basis of sex, the only issue is whether it prohibits it. it doesn't. >> i never agreed with justice scalia on anything but when he said that the constitution does not prohibit sex discrimination, he's right. she introduced a revised version adding the word women for the first time. it will be reintroduced in the new session of congress. it will require a majority vote from 2-thirds of the house and senate and ratification from 38 of the 50 states. >> there's no reason that people
regardless of sex should not have equal rights and protections under federal law and that's why we're still talking about the era today. >> if i could choose an amendment to add to this constitution it would be the equal rights amendment. men and women are persons of equal stature. that principle belongs in our constitution. >> from 1970 to now, we have to finish this one. am i optimistic, yes. i knew one thing for sure. that we are on the right side of history. and i just hope i live to see it. >> we owe a lot to those women who have been fighting for so long for our rights and for their own. this has been a movement that has lasted for generations. my generation and younger generations need to join with
them and realize that something they have been fighting for for decades is something that we can help realize in the future. jeff besos is the wealthiest man on the planet and the undisputed king of e-commerce. >> jeff is thomas edison, jeff is henry ford, only i think better. >> but for a change, the headlines aren't about his public company. they're about his private life. a brilliant business man blind sided by a tabloid bombshell. >> the