In 1923, women’s suffrage leader Alice Paul introduced the idea of equal rights for women. It’s unlikely Paul would have foreseen people wearing “pussy hats” to help argue this point, but nearly a century later women are still fighting for equal rights.
On Sunday morning at Rinconada Park in Palo Alto, roughly 500 people gathered for The Rally and Walk for Equality. Organized by the same women who arranged the Women’s March in San Jose, Sunday’s speakers included an impassioned speech by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo). The event culminated with a two-mile walk to call attention to threats on women’s rights while also championing support for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
“The Women’s March brought out so many new activists and women,” organizer Jenny Bradanini said. “Everybody’s asking what’s next, so it made sense for us to continue and turn the moment into a movement.”
Hip-hop dance instructor Esteban DeLeon warmed up the crowd before speakers took the stage along with about 30 children, many from the group Girls Learn International. The students held signs that read “ERA Yes” and “Stop The War On Women.”
Speakers ranged from elected officials and journalists to professors and doctors. Speier, who represents the 14th congressional district, focused her remarks on support for the ERA to become the law of the land. Congress passed the ERA in 1972, but only 35 states, including California, ratified the constitutional amendment, leaving the count short by three states.
“We now have 26 words, that’s it, count them,” Speier said. “Twenty-six words that we want to add to the Constitution. It’s not 1,200 pages like the Affordable Care Act. It’s not hundreds of pages like the so-called ‘American Care Act’ that had no ‘Health’ in it, but that’s another story. It’s 26 words. And why is this important? How can we be a country as equal as we presume to be and not have women protected in the Constitution?”
In her comments, Speier referred only to Section 1 of the Equal Rights Amendment. Here is the full language:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
According to polling done by USA Today, a majority of Americans incorrectly assume that women are guaranteed equal rights under the Constitution.
Downtown College Prep’s middle school group Rise Up shared their own stories Sunday, wrapping up the speaker series for the day. Four students shared their reasons for being at the event, each followed by a shout to “rise up, rise up.”
Participants made their way from Rinconada Park through the streets of Palo Alto while holding signs and chanting messages of empowerment.
Ida Sunneras, a 17-year-old student at Palo Alto High School, took part in the rally along with other members of Girls Learn International. “I realized a few years ago that I have a certain restless feeling in my body, that I realize it’s not gonna go away until there is equality,” Sunneras said. “I think I just care a lot; not only for myself, but for everyone. It’s simple—justice long overdue.”
Los Gatos resident Kjirste Morrell marched in hopes of informing more people about the amendment’s possible passage. She wore a pink hat, the same she donned for the San Jose Women’s March.
“I have a daughter who is 19 and she was really shocked to find out that [the ERA] hadn’t been passed,” Morrell said. “I think a lot of young people just assumed that’s the way it is in this country and you know, I think it should be. I also oppose (Donald) Trump and all of that, but this is specifically for the ERA.”
Nevada’s legislature recently took up the ERA and the amendment is expected to be ratified after passing out of both the state Senate and Assembly. Two more states are needed to meet the requisite 38 to solidify women’s rights in the U.S. Constitution.