Jan Coggeshall and the Equal Rights Amendment

 Jan Coggeshall and the Equal Rights Amendment
Portrait of Janice R. Coggeshall, Name File--Photograph Collection, Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas.

Jan Coggeshall, Galveston’s first female Mayor (1984-1989) was a fierce trailblazer of her time. Elected during a wave of other women mayors in Texas during the 1980s, she was joined by Kathryn Whitmire in Houston and Annette Strauss in Dallas.

Coggeshall dedicated her life to improving Galveston and served on a variety of projects within the community. While her community involvement was vast, she is often remembered for serving on the Rosenberg Library’s Board of Directors and as an active member in the League of Women Voters. This Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) bracelet donated to the Rosenberg Library in 2013 belonged to Coggeshall, an example of her commitment towards equality and improving quality of life for Galveston residents.

“I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.” – Alice Paul, 1972
 Jan Coggeshall and the Equal Rights Amendment
ERA nickel silver bracelet, 2013.026 Rosenberg Library Museum

Equal Rights Amendment

After ratification of the 19th amendment for woman’s suffrage in 1920, suffragist leader, Alice Paul continued her activism by introducing the ERA Amendment in 1923. Written by Paul, the amendment called for absolute equality stating, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.” Revised in 1943, the new amendment stated “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Did you know?

The 19th Amendment, granting women suffrage is the only mention of the word “woman” in the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, the only right guaranteed to women by federal law is the right to vote.

Although both the Republican and Democratic parties added the ERA to their platforms, it wasn’t until 1972 when it passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then sent to the states for ratification. Unfortunately Congress had placed a time limit of seven years for the ratification process. A total of 38 states were needed to ratify the ERA for it to become law, and only 22 states of the necessary 38 ratified in the first year. Texas was among the first 22 states to ratify during a special session in March of 1972.

After a historic vote in Virginia during January 2020, it became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, decades after the seven year time limit. In January of 2022, President Joe Biden expressed his support for the ERA and stated “I am calling on Congress to act immediately to pass a resolution recognizing ratification of the ERA. As the recently published Office of Legal Counsel memorandum makes clear, there is nothing standing in Congress’s way from doing so.” In fact during March of 2021, The House voted to remove the time limit on the ERA ratification, leaving it to the Senate to decide.

So will we see an Equal Rights Amendment in 2021?

"No one should be discriminated against based on their sex—and we, as a nation, must stand up for full women’s equality." -President Joe Biden, January 2022

Facts about the ERA

  • The ERA does not add new laws to the U.S. Constitution, it only guarantees the rights currently within it. Issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, unisex bathrooms, and the female draft exist separately from the ERA and would not become law upon the ERA’s passage.
  • The ERA is an amendment for both men and women – it is not just a woman’s issue. Issues of custody, employment, and fair wages are important to both sexes and an Equal Rights Amendment would guarantee equal legal rights without regard to sex.
  • The ERA would affirm the purpose that began with the writing of the U.S. Constitution, the basic human right of constitutional protection.
  • The 14th Amendment, providing an equal protection clause to all U.S. citizens, was not originally intended to apply to women, as it predates the 19th Amendment. As proof of this, Susan B. Anthony voted in the 1872 presidential election, was arrested two weeks later, and was convicted the following year for illegal voting. At her trial, she attempted to use the 14th Amendment to defend her actions, but the judge ruled that the amendment did not apply to her because she was a woman.
  • Latinas face the largest wage gap at $0.53 on the dollar. Women on average make $0.79 to a white man’s dollar.
  • Every 92 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. The ERA would give these survivors rights.
  • The House voted to remove the time limit on March 17, 2021…The Senate is next.

The Treasure of the Month is located on the library’s historic second floor near the East Entrance. It can be viewed during regular library hours, 9:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 9:00 a.m. - 8:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information, please contact Ivy Albright, Museum Curator at 409.763.8854 Ext. 125 or at museum@rosenberg-library.org.

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