Maryland suffragists picket the White House, 1917.

Working for women’s rights has a long history in our country and has taken many forms,

from the early suffragists in the mid-nineteenth century up through today’s movement to ensure STEM education for young women.  This Saturday, January 21, is the day of the Women’s Marches around the world. 215,000 people have RSVP’d to the Washington, D.C. event on Facebook, and another 1.3 million are expected to attend marches around the world, including over 60,000 here in Chicago[update as of 01/21 11:00 am central: 150K!].

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has been a part of this struggle since it was first introduced in Congress in 1923.

First Lady Betty Ford wearing her ERA badge, 1975.

In 1978 and again in 1982, Studs traveled to Springfield, IL to speak with women who were working toward its national ratification in Illinois.  In 1978, he spoke with IL Representative Susan Catania; Vice-Chair of the Illinois Commission on the Status of Women, Clara Day; and Marguerite Klimkowski, the Illinois President of Housewives for ERA.


Studs asks Representative Catania, “what will Equal Rights Amendment Illinois do?” and she responds by reading the amendment to him.  Then she goes on to tell Studs about the multiple related experiences of discrimination and prejudice that led her to pursue a career in politics.

Clara Day explains that being pro-ERA does not mean being anti-man.  She tells Studs, “equality is for everybody.”

In 1982, Studs returned to Springfield.

This time he spoke with two Mormon women, Shirley Wallace and Marianne Bell, who were fasting to support a pro-ERA vote in Illinois.  At the time of this interview, they have been fasting for sixteen days, and the physical toll it is taking can be heard in their voices.  By fasting for this cause, they are going against their church.  Later in the program, Studs catches up with Representative Catania again.

Hear Marianne Bell talks about radicalism, and then about the “invisible women.”

Nearly 35 years after this interview was recorded, we heard a lot about the North Carolina “bathroom bill.”  Apparently a similar concern was popping up in Illinois around the ERA; Susan Catania explains and debunks it here.

As women around the world begin their preparations for January 21, these courageous voices can offer support and solidarity. Listen to both complete interviews here.

Suffragist photo credit: By Photographer: Harris & Ewing, Washington, D.C. – Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Public Domain,
Betty Ford photo credit: By Karl Schumacher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Bathroom image credit: By Checkingfax (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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