ERA informational flyer
ERA Central, “Come & Learn About ERA!” Chicago: ca. 1971

In August 1920, the movement for women’s equality in the United States won a massive victory with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. Following the passage of the amendment, in 1921, Alice Paul, a prominent leader of the suffrage movement, and Crystal Eastman, a lawyer and socialist, began drafting the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). They presented it to Congress in 1923. Far more sweeping than the 19th Amendment, the ERA was intended to outlaw gender discrimination; it provided that “[m]en and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and all its jurisdictions.”

Despite early bipartisan support for the amendment, it languished in Congressional committees for over 30 years. However, with the rise of the modern women's movements in the United States in the 1960s and 70s, enthusiasm for the Equal Rights Amendment swelled.

The Equal Rights Amendment also garnered increasing support from a new class of federal lawmakers, including Representatives Martha Griffiths (D-MI) and Shirley Chisholm (D-NY). Griffiths was the first woman to serve on the influential House Committee on Ways and Means, while Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to Congress. Representative Griffiths reintroduced the ERA to Congress in 1971 and it was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives on October 12, 1971, and by the Senate on March 22, 1972. 

Congress set a ratification deadline of March 22, 1979, which was later extended to June 30, 1982. Within a year of approval by Congress, 30 states had ratified the amendment, and by 1977, the amendment had received 35 of the necessary 38 ratifications. 

However, the rise of a well-organized conservative movement in the United States would make securing ratifications from three more states for passage of the ERA far more difficult than organizers anticipated. The biggest threat to ratification came from Phyllis Schlafly, a longtime Republican activist who allied with the emerging religious right and set out to stop the Equal Rights Amendment from becoming part of the Constitution. In the 1970s, Schlafly organized the STOP ERA campaign, which stood for “Stop Taking Our Privileges.” The anti-ERA campaign was well organized and successful in bringing many women to the cause, portraying its supporters as people who “hate men, marriage, and children,” who will “destroy morality and the family.”

This exhibition explores this complicated history through archival material, photographs, and ephemera produced by activists from both sides to shed light on why ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment failed and how that fight impacts our lives today.

This exhibition is curated by Cara Dellatte, reference archivist in the Manuscripts and Rare Book Division, and Ian Fowler, Curator of Maps, History, and Government Information, at The New York Public Library.

Highlights from the Exhibition

Photograph of old woman through an open window. She is smiling and holding a sign that reads "ERA YES"

© Joan L. Roth

"The Last Suffragette," Joan Roth, August 26, 1970
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, Photography Collection
Flyer that is shaped and designed like a dollar bill, stating "Can you afford the ERA'.
"Can You Afford the ERA?" Operation Wake Up, ca. 1977
Manuscripts and Archives Division, Dorothy Frooks Papers
Poster with the title "The Suffragist" at the top. Below, two women are hugging. The one on the left represents "American Womanhood" and the one on the right "Justice". They are connected by the "Suffrage Amendment"
National Woman’s Party, The Suffragist, June 21, 1919 (Vol. VII, No. 24)
Washington, D.C.: Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage
General Research Division
Cover of flyer titled "What's in it for Black Women" followed by long text.
“What’s in It for Black Women?” Frankie Muse Freeman, US Commission on Civil Rights, ca. 1973
Manuscripts and Archives Division, Georgia Lloyd papers
Read the full pamphlet
Cover of flyer, printed in pink and white, titled "To Manipulate a Woman", along an illustration of a young woman thinking and including two roses on the bottom.
“To Manipulate a Woman”, Concerned Women for America
Washington, D.C.: December 3, 1983
Manuscripts and Archives Division, Georgia Lloyd papers
Open leaflet on "Why religious groups support the Equal Rights Amendment"
"Why Religious Groups Support the ERA," Religious Committee for the ERA, 1981
Manuscripts and Archives Division, Georgia Lloyd Papers

Installation views

Equal Rights Amendment: A Century of Speaking Out is open through January 6, 2024 in the Rayner Special Collections Wing in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

Photograph with fisheye view of exhibition showing both sides of the gallery corridor
Photograph of exhibition showing one side of the gallery corridor
Photograph with fisheye view of exhibition showing both sides of the gallery corridor
Photograph with fisheye view of exhibition showing both sides of the gallery corridor
Photograph with fisheye view of exhibition showing both sides of the gallery corridor
Photograph with fisheye view of exhibition showing both sides of the gallery corridor

Live from NYPL | Far from Over: The Fight for the Equal Rights Amendment

Headshots of four women
Politicians and activists at the forefront of the movement discuss the continuing push for a vital amendment.


  • Hon. Carolyn B. Maloney, Former U.S. Representative, NY 12th district
  • Christian F. Nunes, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW)
  • Kate Shaw, Professor of Law and the Co-Director of the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy at the Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
  • L. Joy Williams, President of the Brooklyn NAACP, Host of #SundayCivics

In the wake of the 19th Amendment the groups that united to fight for women’s suffrage splintered. Nevertheless, a contingent of feminists persevered and rallied support for the Equal Rights Amendment—only for it to be stalled indefinitely during the ratification process. In July Democrats introduced resolutions to once again revive the ERA. What is the future for this long-delayed amendment?

Watch the recording below:


Far from Over: The Fight for the Equal Rights Amendment | LIVE from NYPL

Large Print Labels

Large Print Logo

Access the exhibition's large print labels here:

Equal Rights Amendment: A Century of Speaking Out

A physical copy can be found at the information desk in the McGraw Rotunda.

Also access a full transcript of the What's in it for Black Women? pamphlet.

Explore the ERA in NYPL's Research Collections

Exterior of the Schomburg Center, featuring large glass windows and a row of lush green trees.

The New York Public Library is an invaluable resource for scholars, students, and creators in New York and worldwide. With more than 46 million objects in our research collections and the unparalleled expertise of our librarians, anyone can come and find what they need for their workfor free. Learn more about research at NYPL.

Plus! Access materials related to this exhibition in these Library collections:

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building's Manuscripts and Archives Division:

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture's Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division:

Essential Reads on Feminism

List of books

You can check out NYPL's Essential Reads on Feminism using your NYPL library card. Don't have one? Get one today.

The list includes first-hand accounts and histories of the suffrage movement that chronicle both its successes and its limitations—particularly for women of color—as well as contemporary essays on how feminism intersects with race, class, education, and LGBTQ+ activism. From personal memoirs to historical overviews, and featuring writing by seminal figures as well as lesser-known pioneers, the list traces the development of the feminist ideas that have powered the campaign for gender equality, in all its complexity and boldness. While far from complete, this selection nevertheless provides a starting point for learning about the history of feminism and for exploring the issues and challenges that many women face today.

The New York Public Library offers a range of ways to engage with historical materials about suffrage as well as contemporary works of feminism. Explore our Library Guides on how to research Black feminist movements and discover the history of suffrage in your local area—and possibly even your own family. Plus, browse the Digital Collections for papers, correspondence, and photos relating to feminist movements around the world.

NYPL's Doc Chat Series: "Militant" Maude Malone

As part of The New York Public Library's Doc Chat Series, this exhibition's co-curator Cara Dellatte, and NYPL's Susan Kriete used two evocative photos to piece together the life of "Militant" Maude Malone, who was not only a feminist and activist, but also a NYPL Librarian. Read more about this discussion.

Curatorial Acknowledgments

This exhibition was originally titled: “Her Vote, Her Voice: The Fight for Women’s Equality” and was an in-depth look at the fight for the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and was designed, framed, and set to open in the Fall of 2020, the amendment’s centenary. 

The journey from the initial planning for that exhibit to the opening of this one involves many of our colleagues across the library system over the last four years and is a testament to the resilience of the staff, as well as the depth and breadth of the collections across the research libraries that have made the current moment possible. 

Catherine Blauvelt, Shannon Keller and Susan Kriete were members of the original curatorial team, along with Cara Dellatte and Ian Fowler from the current exhibition. 

We would like to thank Declan Kiely, Director of Special Collections and Exhibitions for supporting our vision for this exhibition as it went through its many identities and interpretations over the years, as well as William P. Kelly, Brent Reidy, Tony Marx, and our colleagues across the administration who make all of our collection displays and outreach efforts possible.

We would also like to extend special thanks to Jason Baumann, Emily Brooks, and Julie Golia for their intellectual and editorial support throughout the exhibition process. 

This exhibit would of course not be possible without the tireless work of the library’s Exhibitions team, especially Susan Rabbiner, Becky Laughner, Tereza Chanaki, Carl Auge and all of the installers and handlers who make the physical work of exhibitions possible. As well as Henk van Assen and the team at HvA Design for making the aesthetics of the exhibition so stunning. 

All of our colleagues at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture were instrumental in supporting this exhibition and assisting us with researching and loaning materials from the Schomburg’s incredible collections. With specific thanks to Joy L. Bivins, Cheryl Beredo, Barrye Brown, Tami Lawson, Shola Lynch, Dalila Scruggs, Anika Paris, and Miguel Rosales.

Our Conservation Lab for making all of these objects, especially those from archives and those that were not necessarily meant to survive, look like new: Mary Oey, Emily Muller, Hanako Murata, Denise Stockman, and Addison Yu.

Our Registrar Team for overseeing the care of these amazing collections and bringing them all together for this exhibition; Caryn Gedell, Deborah Straussman, and Martin Branch-Shaw.

Sharing portions of this exhibit online would not have been possible without the work of Dina Selfridge, Kiowa Hammons, and Zoe Waldron.

Letting New York and the world know about the exhibit is thanks to Sara Beth Joren and our Media Relations Office and Charles Arrowsmith and everyone in our Creative Services team.

We also like to extend our gratitude to Linda Murray for her advice and inspiration.

And our thanks are always with the Library's Security and Facilities teams, without whose careful stewardship of the library none of this would be possible.

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