Last week, VA Ratify ERA brought their #IScream4Equality tour to VCU’s campus — in the form of delicious ice cream.
VA Ratify ERA’s team of volunteers handed out ice cream to Virginia Commonwealth University students on Wednesday. But this act was about more than just beating the heat — it was about beating the prolonged injustice that has resulted with Virginia’s failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
At the heart of it the action on the VCU campus was VA Ratify ERA volunteer Donna L. Granski, who has a take-no-prisoners attitude and a plucky stick-to-itiveness that’s infectious.74-year-old Granski is 5’2″ of pure, unbridled passion. She approached students with a welcoming grin from ear to ear, asking them if they’ve registered to vote.
“We want women in the Constitution!” Granski chanted.
Granski, a member of the League of Women Voters, has been fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) for 42 years. She’s been a part of numerous marches, protests, and vigils, and has even been spat on, while championing for equal rights. She has two granddaughters, a daughter, and a daughter-in-law that are always at the forefront of her mind as she works toward her goal of equal rights for women — one that would be significantly furthered if the ERA were to become part of the United States Constitution.
At VCU, Helen Ready’s 1971 single “I Am Woman” played over a loudspeaker as Granski sang along at the top of her lungs.
“I am strong.”
“I am invincible.”
“I am woman.”
According to Granski, this song was hailed as an anthem when the ERA was making its way through Congress in the seventies.
The voting rights organization is taking their lilac van on an 11-week #IScream4Equality tour across Virginia. Their goal is to spread awareness of Virginia’s failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and encourage residents to register in time for the upcoming November election.
The Equal Rights Amendment is a proposed Constitutional amendment that would guarantee equal rights for men and women. In order for it to become an official amendment to the Constitution, at least three fourths of the states must ratify it.
The amendment was first proposed in December 1923. It took nearly 50 years after that initial introduction for it to be approved by Congress, which finally took place in 1972. After that, it needed to be ratified by 38 of the 50 states individually, as specified in the Constitution. However, it only received 35 ratifications before a deadline of June 30, 1982, set by a joint resolution of Congress. Therefore, it was never officially added to the Constitution.
However, Equal Rights Amendment advocates have pursued a “three-state strategy” over the past two decades, spurred by the ratification in 1992 of the Twenty-Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, which had been pending at the state level since 1789 — over 200 years. The question of whether Congress has the power to set a deadline for ratification has never been settled, as the deadline is not in the Constitution.
Virginia reconsidered ratification in the 2014 General Assembly session, in which the amendment was passed by the state Senate but failed in the House Of Delegates. Since then, Nevada ratified the amendment in 2017 and Illinois ratified it in 2018. Therefore, only one state remains to reach the required 38 states and force legal consideration of whether or not the ERA can legally be added to the Constitution.
The amendment was reintroduced in Virginia’s General Assembly this year, but failed once again to pass in the House Of Delegates — this time by a single vote. With all 140 seats in Virginia’s General Assembly up for election this November, attention from pro-ERA groups has focused heavily on the Commonwealth.
If ratified, the amendment would end the legal distinction between men and women in terms of employment, divorce, and property ownership.
“It’s been such a long time coming,” said volunteer Kathy Cade. “It’s not just about women’s rights. Women’s rights are all of our rights.”
Additional reporting by Marilyn Drew Necci. Top Photo via VA Ratify ERA/Facebook