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  • The ERA in the 21st Century: Where Have We Come From, and Where Will We Go?

Conference Call for Papers

“The Equal Rights Amendment in the 21st Century:
Where Have We Come From, and Where Will We Go?”

Roger Williams University, Bristol, RI
November 15-16, 2013

The proposed Equal Rights Amendment, which 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,” was first introduced in Congress in 1923 but still has not become part of the U.S. Constitution. 

This conference will bring together scholars from such academic disciplines as history, law, gender studies, literature, and political science with practitioners from the legal and political professions and activists from grassroots organizations to discuss the past, present, and future ramifications of that fact.

We invite participants to explore the seemingly paradoxical U.S. cultural, legal, political, and intellectual heritage that has its roots in the “self-evident” precept of equality and yet has prevented the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment for 90 years.  We encourage presenters to consider women’s rights in the context of the continuing expansion of constitutional equality and to imagine future pathways toward equal rights without regard to sex.  

For the past 30 years, the Equal Rights Amendment has generally been minimized or ignored by Americans who believe that the Fourteenth Amendment, case law precedent, statutes such as Title VII and Title IX, and progressive administrative policies sufficiently protect women’s rights.  Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s widely publicized 2010 comment that the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit sex discrimination has prompted a closer look at whether such confidence in the irreversibility of women’s legal and political progress is warranted in the absence of an Equal Rights Amendment.  

While the Equal Rights Amendment is a topic touched upon in college courses, we encourage a critical examination of the ways that the ERA is taught, and how the issues that it evokes through its premise of equality of rights under the law are treated in education, popular culture, media, and the law.

This Conference Call for Papers invites proposals for presentations that examine issues of equality on the basis of sex in the United States of America.  While the Equal Rights Amendment will serve as a frame for dialogues across academic, legal, political, and public spheres, papers do not need to deal primarily with the amendment itself. 

Some ideas for topics include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Why should the United States add an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution?  Is it needed to achieve equal rights without regard to sex?  Would it have any demonstrable negative cultural/legal impact?  
  • What is the relative position of the United States globally regarding affirmation of equal rights through both the Equal Rights Amendment and CEDAW (the United Nations Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women)?  What cultural/political factors underlie this situation?   
  • What does the failure thus far to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment indicate about the relative cultural/political status and valuation of females in the U.S. since 1923?
  • How have cultural and/or political relationships evolved since 1923 regarding the Equal Rights Amendment and feminism?  Men, both as individuals and as a class?  ERA supporters and opponents, past and present?
  • What does over four decades of experience with litigation under state Equal Rights Amendments indicate regarding potential application of a federal ERA?
  • How has the Equal Rights Amendment been related legally and politically to reproductive rights?  LGBTQ issues?  Economic policies?  Employment rights?  Traditional gender roles and conservative “family values”?  Other issues?
  • What comparisons and contrasts can be drawn between the social and political movement for the Equal Rights Amendment and the movement for racial justice/civil rights?  For reproductive rights?  For LGBTQ rights?  What do these movements have to learn from each other?    
  • In what ways do people continue to engage with the Equal Rights Amendment in academia?  Legal and political practice?  Grassroots advocacy?  What models exist or can be formulated for bridging these categories of engagement?

To submit your conference paper proposal, please e-mail a 250-500 word abstract and a CV or brief bio to Paper proposals are due by August 1, 2013. More details about the conference can be found at  For questions about the conference, please contact

ERA Conference 2013
c/o Dr. Laura D’Amore
Department of History and American Studies
Roger Williams University
One Old Ferry Road
Bristol, RI 02809
(401) 254-3171