Equal Rights Amendment

by Louis Jacinto


Jane Fonda and Lee Grant, ERA Rally, Los Angeles, 1976



I had been living in Los Angeles for 7 months by then, moving from my hometown of Bakersfield, California to attend my third year of college.

By this time, a roommate didn’t have enough money for her share of the rent so she offered to pay with her 35-millimeter camera.  I said yes.

In high school I made Super 8 movies and took “artsy” photographs with my Kodak 110 camera, so this “real” camera was a Godsend.  During my first two years of college in Bakersfield I had taken photography classes and printed my photographs from my 110 negatives.  So I enrolled in photography again, mostly to have access to the darkroom so I could start printing with this new camera.

I had met Mark Vieira at a student dance a couple of months before.  He was a photographer and worked at the University of Southern California.  After all these years, Mark and I remain friends and he has had an incredible career as a photographer as well as being the author of several books on the Golden Age of Hollywood.

So back in May of 1976, I had heard that Jane Fonda and Lee Grant were going to be speaking at an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) rally on the campus of USC.  I told Mark we should go.  I shot an entire roll of film; Mark shot some film too, but I think mostly of me.

Although I could do a great job of printing my black and white photographs, I didn’t do too well at developing the actual film.  This roll from the ERA rally turned out to be my last.  A lot of the images came out very poorly, not from the camera, but from my blundering in the darkroom.  I realized the risk of ruining a roll of film, especially with once in a lifetime images, was not worth the risk. Today, with the help of computers, the images have been saved.

Below is what the Equal Rights Amendment was about and what happened to it.  I thought of these images from that time with the recent death of the misguided conservative Phyllis Schlafly.

“The Equal Rights Amendment was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal rights for women. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman. In 1923, it was introduced in the Congress for the first time. The ERA has always been highly controversial regarding the meaning of equality for women. It was “feminist against feminist”, said historian Judith Sealander; the result was the eventual defeat of the ERA.  Middle-class women generally were supportive. Those speaking for the working class were strongly opposed, arguing that employed women needed special protections regarding working conditions and hours. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress and was submitted to the state legislatures for ratification. It seemed headed for quick approval until Phyllis Schlafly mobilized conservative women in opposition, arguing that the ERA would disadvantage housewives.

Congress had set a ratification deadline of March 22, 1979. Through 1977, the amendment received 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications. Five states rescinded their ratifications before the 1979 deadline. In 1978, a joint resolution of Congress extended the ratification deadline to June 30, 1982, but no further states ratified the amendment and so it did not become part of the Constitution. Several organizations continue to work for the adoption of the ERA.”