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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lucy Somerville Howorth, June 20, 22, and 23, 1975. Interview G-0028. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Support for the Equal Rights Amendment

Here, Howorth explains why she believes that the Equal Rights Amendment was a necessary measure in the 1970s. Arguing that the Supreme Court had determined in several cases that women were not protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, she states that either a decision ruling that women were "people" under the Fourteenth Amendment or the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment was necessary to guarantee women equal rights under the Constitution.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lucy Somerville Howorth, June 20, 22, and 23, 1975. Interview G-0028. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

CONSTANCE MYERS:
Why do you think that the Equal Rights Amendment is necessary?
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
I gave your husband a little talk on that.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
He told me that you had and I want you to say it.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Well, it is necessary because the Supreme Court of the United States held in several cases that women were not persons within theof the Fourteenth Amendment. Now, the Supreme Court early held that corporations were persons within the means of all acts of the legislature. Then later in particular, they held that the Fourteenth Amendment applies to corporations, so they have equal protection of the law, but not the women. The Supreme Court, with one decision, could knock out all of that and say that the Fourteenth Amendment applies to women.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
But you think that it is unlikely that that decision will . . .
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Someday, I think that it will come. It may not come until the Equal Rights Amendment is adopted. Then, again, if it is not adopted for quite awhile, it may come, but I rather agree with your husband that the present Court won't do it. Now, I also explained to him just very roughly what you are familiar with, the evolution of law as it applies to women. That at one time, they weren't any better than dogs and cats and they were a kind of chattel and the man had to be the conscience. He was held if the woman killed somebody; and he was indicated for murder. Of course, that wasn't the word used, but he was held responsible and the gradual emergence of women as persons and the courts in this country are still filled withwith terrible ideas about the position of women. If you read the decisions, they just make you nearly go crazy.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
But there are a good many sex discrimination cases now being decided in favor of the complainant and that is encouraging.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Yes, thanks to these statutes and of course, thanks some to the educational process where you are getting a different breed. I think that all of that should be compulsory; with retirement of judges at least at sixty-five. They get hardening of the arteries and they just sit there with some sort of an old idea dredged up from 1890 or something.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
A good deal of sentiment is invested in those ideas, too.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Oh, yes. The reason for the American Association of University Women, for example, being so slow to come into the fold of the Equal Rights Amendment was this idea of protective legislation. Now, I explained to him that I was educated in the YWCA in that position, but I always said that when the time comes that public opinion recognizes that men need to be protected by the law as well as women, then the special protection doctrine goes out, but it is that "ward of the state" idea.