Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Advisor/Committee Chair

Kori Graves, Ph.D.


The Equal Rights Amendment was first proposed by suffragist and life-long feminist Alice Paul in 1923 and it intended to create equality of the sexes under the law. It was passed by Congress in 1972, but ultimately was not ratified by enough states. During that time was second-wave feminism, a movement that claimed to seek out equality but had a divisive nature. This thesis looks at how the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment in New York during the 1970s and 80s helped shape the definition of equality for each side of the newly polarized political spectrum. The bulk of my sources consisted of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women’s papers on the ERA, the Conservative party of New York’s papers on the ERA and Barbara Keating’s 1974 senatorial campaign, and articles from New York newspapers. By focusing on case studies in New York and how they represent a larger picture, I will show how the women fighting for and against the ERA redefined the way equality was understood. Equality to the people fighting for the ERA looked for not only the erasure of disadvantages, but for the awarding of privileges to both sexes. Equality to the people fighting against the Equal Rights Amendment was starkly designed by the privileges each sex experienced – men experienced privileges like higher pay and women experienced privileges like exclusion from the draft. Equality was the privilege that Barbara Keating described women as having, like being able to stay home and rule the domestic sphere, and men on the flip side had the privilege of things like higher pay. Equality to the conservatives meant not equal but a balance of privileges, whereas the liberal definition of equality was an unending fight for equity that exemplified by the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment in New York during the 1970s and 80s.