Virginia Falls Short on ERA but We Can Turn It Around

By Amy Jackson

Alexandria City Council member Amy Jackson signing the ERA ratification sign in Richmond. (Photo: Amy Jackson Collection)

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Once again, Virginia was poised to be on the right side of history – and fell short.

Women have been the glue of families, backbones of corporations, the thread within friendship circles, and the foundation of civilizations.  But for all of that, women lost the opportunity for Virginia to become the 38th and final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.  This historic opportunity, passed by our state senators early on in the General Assembly session, lost in the final week of session on the floor of our House of Delegates.  The same floor that opened this year’s session to celebrations upon entering their 400th year in existence since the House of Burgesses was created in 1619.

Amy Jackson presents Alexandria’s ERA resolution to Virginia Delegate Carroll Foy. (Photo: Amy Jackson Collection)

I find it sad, yet fascinating that with three branches of government and what still appears to be a strong, stable national Checks and Balances system in place, women cannot be afforded equality in the most porous of pages of our most important Living Document – the United States Constitution – where women are not mentioned in even an afterthought, and where 81% of Virginia residents are now in favor of the ERA, it did not pass our House of Delegates (although Alexandria’s state senators and delegates did vote for it!).

What’s the good news?  Virginia has an election every year.  In November, hundreds of our Richmond representatives from around the Commonwealth will be up for reelection.  So, women (and those that support women) need to get out the vote and cast their ballots to change the seats of representatives that did not support the ERA.  Our diversity is our strength and we need that amplified in Richmond, so that we have the opportunity to ratify the ERA in next year’s session.

It is hard to fathom how our Founding Fathers did not accurately depict women in their forethought of this country by their exclusion in our most law-abiding work, especially when most had a woman of strong character and will supporting them on the Homefront.  And honestly, it is hard to believe those women did not question them about the decision not to include them.  Since before the birth of our nation, as in other countries before our establishment, women have generally been overlooked, undervalued, and questioned for accuracy and perfection when men written into our first historical anecdotes were considered far worthier in general and without question.

Now, centuries later, we have different months dedicated throughout the year to celebrate our nation’s heritage and ancestry.  March is dedicated to Women’s History.  Through the years, from Martha Washington frequenting the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum to a Landmark Mall being used to stage a WonderWoman film to our Commission for Women publishing the first Status of Women Report for the first time in 40 years last November, Alexandria has a rich history of women of importance and significance.  These pioneers of yesteryear have blazed a trail that will be continued in today’s modern time, with this progress continuing to chart women’s course into the future.  Women in leadership roles is nothing new to Alexandria, although the spotlight on them throughout the centuries may not have been so bright.  Although this recognition can be given at anytime of year, this month is especially rich in Women’s History and events throughout our City.  Please take some time to explore Alexandria, it’s diverse culture, and continue your education concerning what women continue to contribute to our Port City.

Here are a few:

The 12th Annual “Meet the Legends Reception” is on Thursday, March 14 at 6pm at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial and hosted by The Living Legends of Alexandria.  Tickets available.

The Alexandria Commission for Women, with past receptions including the Salute to Women Awards and the Celebration for the Honorable Patsy Ticer, these local women are sponsoring this year’s “Civic Activism: Women Leading the Way”, with a panel of local women leaders.  This reception will be held at the Lyceum on March 25 at 6:30pm.  Tickets available.

The Alexandria Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) is having a symposium on March 28 at 6:45pm at Beatley Library titled “Strangers No More: Women Building Cross-Cultural Friendships”

Historic Alexandria is also hosting a few events focusing on women’s accomplishments this month.  The Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden will be presenting “The New Woman: Life in Progressive Era Alexandria (1890-1920)” on March 28 at 6pm.

Amy Jackson is a member of Alexandria City Council who lives and works in Alexandria with her husband and two children.