I recently sat down to watch Mrs. America, the new mini-series starring Cate Blanchett as STOP ERA founder, Phyllis Schlafly. The series begins with Schlafly meeting Phil Crane for an interview. You probably have never heard of him but I grew up in his Illinois congressional district.
These events were very much a part of my early teen years as my Mom joined other Mormon women in Illinois, bussing down from the Chicago area to Springfield to STOP ERA. The mini-series is bringing my adult eyes to youthful impressions.
I was inspired by my Mom’s advocacy, but also remember asking her what was wrong with the Equal Rights Amendment. I vaguely remember Phyllis Schlafly on the Phil Donahue show articulately framing her movement as advocating respect for women and their role to raise children, depend on husbands for support, and avoid combat (the STOP stood for Stop Taking Our Privileges).
What is weirding me out is as I was watching Mrs. America, I was also finishing Marianne Monson’s new historical novel, “Her Quiet Revolution,” about the life of early Mormon doctor and first female state senator in America, Martha Hughes Cannon (excellent read by the way). Martha Hughes Cannon (1890s) was joined by Emmeline B. Wells and other prominent LDS women in the fight for women’s suffrage after the vote had been taken from them by the Edmunds-Tucker act against polygamy.
Play along with me – who said what? “You are the queens of the domestic kingdom and if you become embroiled in political agitation, the reverence that is paid you will disappear.” Or this? “Once to be born a female was to become a plaything or a slave … today . . . woman is the peer of the noblest man . . . . and may the day be hastened when women will know all their rights, and knowing, dare maintain.” Who claimed passage of women’s rights legislation would bring about unknown consequences? Or take away gender specific privileges? Who said, “No privileged class either of sex, wealth, or descent should be allowed to arise or exist. All persons should have the legal right to be the equal of every other.” Who said, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
These women, about a century apart, traded spaces and places. The 1970s LDS women were fighting to preserve the traditional family, reliant on husbands and fathers to provide so they could be in the home with their children. The 1890s LDS women had anything but traditional families and as many polygamist men could not afford to support more than one household, were tasked with making their own way. The women of 1890, wanted equal access, pish poshing arguments they needed to remain privileged, while the 1970s women fought to maintain privileges.
Answers: B.H. Roberts, 1895, arguing against Utah women’s suffrage; Martha Hughes Cannon, 1895, arguing for women’s suffrage; B.H. Roberts, 1895; Phyllis Schlafly, 1970s; Martha Hughes Cannon, 1895; the Equal Rights Amendment. The B.H. Roberts and Martha Hughes Cannon quotes are from “Her Quiet Revolution,” by Marianne Monson.