Today, September 16, marks the 24th anniversary of the passing of Millicent Fenwick. Earlier this month her nemesis, Phyllis Schlafly, passed away. The two women went head to during a televised national debate about the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1976. At the time, Fenwick was a member of the GOP Platform Committee at the 1976 Republican Convention and Schlafly was the Stop ERA national chairwoman. Below is an excerpt from Millicent Fenwick: Her Way capturing the exchange between the pair:
“I think it is sad and a little comic that in a bicentennial year to be wondering about whether we ought to admit that 51%-52% of the Citizens of America are really citizens,” said Fenwick during the Schlafly debate. “When ERA started I thought oh sure, and I didn’t take it too seriously, it seemed so natural. I thought it was an oversight, but now as a result of all the opposition so cleverly orchestrated by my companion here, I am getting quire severe about it. We need the ERA because it is a statement that women are citizens.”
But as Schlafly pointed out, “The Majority of women in your state voted against the ERA … They know women are citizens and do no need ERA which will do all sorts of mischievous things like ban mother-daughter banquets in school and subject women to the draft because ERA requires that we treat men and women equally.”
The ERA Amendment did not pass, in large measure due to Schlafly’s efforts opposing the measure.