Val Dumond’s Viewpoint

[In case you missed it, here’s a reprint of the article that appeared on the editorial page of The News Tribune on January 5.]

The AP article (January 3, 2007) lauding the status of women in Washington State tells only part of the story. A political strategist was quoted as using the phrase “chicks in charge” to describe the situation.

After catching my breath over the “chicks” quote, I looked more closely at a couple of things that could be incorrectly inferred from the article.

The strategist credits the number of our state’s successful women to an “… early passage of women’s suffrage and equal rights …” which may lead readers to believe that the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) was passed and now is part of the U.S. Constitution. Untrue! The ERA received ratification from only 35 states; 38 are needed to pass.

Another implication that caught my eye references the current status of elected women in Washington State. The article cites the reduction of the majority of women in the state Supreme Court, as well as the reduced percentage of women serving in the state legislator (down almost 10% in the past six years). Is this a trend, perhaps because women’s rights still have not been spelled out in the Constitution?

Have voters forgotten why the ERA was written in the first place? Things like “egalitarian spirit” that levels the playing field; improves women’s health, retirement, athletic opportunity, and day care; fights domestic violence; and brings women’s pay equal to men’s. In short, the ERA would place into the U.S. Constitution a statement that women’s and men’s rights are equal.

Did you know: The United States of America Constitution is the only one among major nations that does not explicitly guarantee equal rights to women.

It’s not too late! Bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress to re-introduce the ERA Amendment. In December 2005, Senator Edward Kennedy reintroduced the ERA in the Senate (noting Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell among the co-sponsors); Representative Carolyn Maloney and Representative Robert Andrews reintroduced the resolution in the House. These bills explain precedent that will allow passage with ratification from just three states.

Three states have bills in the hopper to ratify the amendment and make it law – Florida, Illinois and Arkansas. If these fail, there are 12 other states that have not ratified the amendment as yet.

Results of a recent survey of adult women and men, students in women’s studies classes, and members of leading women’s organizations show a frightening lack of information about this important subject.

Here are the survey questions – just six of them. How do you fare?

1. What does ERA stand for, as it pertains to women?

a) Education Rights Amendment
b) Equal Rights Amendment
c) Economic Recovery Act
d) Equal Rights Act

2. The ERA was first proposed in:

a) 1923
b) 1945
c) 1978
d) 1982

3. The ERA was made into law in

a) 1923
b) 1945
c) 1978
d) 1982

4. The ERA was ratified by

a) 33 states
b) 35 states
c) 38 states
d) all 50 states

5. The rights of women are clearly protected

a) in the U.S. Constitution
b) in the new Iraq Constitution
c) in the Bill of Rights
d) in the Women’s Rights Act of 1975

6. In the U.S. Constitution

a) the rights of women are not spelled out
b) the words “citizens” and “persons” are not meant to apply to women and blacks
c) separate amendments were necessary to secure the vote for women and blacks
d) all of the above


1. a) Equal Rights Amendment. The proposed amendment states “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
2. a.) The ERA was first proposed in 1923, by Alice Paul.
3. A trick question. The ERA has not been become law – yet.
4. b) The ERA was ratified by only 35 states. A total of 38 are necessary to amend the Constitution.
5. b) Rights of women are clearly protected in the new Iraq Constitution.
6. d) All of the above; separate amendments were necessary to secure the “vote” for women, blacks, and later 18-year-olds.

Contact your congressional representatives in Washington and urge them to get down to work and take care of this small but very important housekeeping detail. Washington State was one of the early states to ratify Amendment 29. The time has come for our women in Congress to make it happen nationally.

Copyright ©2005 Val Dumond


About Val Dumond

VAL DUMOND is a writer who is enamored with words and putting them together to tell stories. Trained as a journalist, she also managed an advertising agency and public relations business. She has taught writing classes for many years and now focuses on her own writing, editing for other writers, and helping writers publish their books. She owns Muddy Puddle Press, where most of her books are published. Her favorite writing theme is historical fiction: She has done what-ifs for Klondike Kate — Queen of the Yukon, and the unlucky pilot who in 1933 tried and failed to be the first to fly solo across the Pacific. She also did a what-if about the status of women at a bank where she once was overworked and underpaid. (Kate received a new love interest at the age of 70; the pilot received a second chance at his heart's desire 50 years later; and the women of the bank rebelled enough to improve their wages and place women on the Board of Directors.) See: SUGAR, SPICE, AND STONE; WHEN ROOSTERS FLY; and A LITTLE REBELLION…. But Val's grammar books are the ones that draw attention. Her latest, AMERICAN-ENGLISH—The Official Guide (written for writers), is a culmination of five other books about language she has written. This new book urges writers to develop their own writing style by creating their own Style Manual, composed of preferences among the many choices that American-English provides. In it, she uses examples of uses for the various parts of language and punctuation, sets aside a section that's full of writing tips, includes a glossary and index for easy access to language solutions.
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