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Teaching Guide: Exploring the Equal Rights Amendment

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, The Equal Rights Amendment, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. Using the sources in this set, describe the justifications used to oppose to the Equal Rights Amendment.
  2. Examine the button. What does the word “uppity” mean? What does it suggest in the context of the ERA? How were supporters of the ERA changing the connotation of the word “uppity”?
  3. Consider the cartoon by Tom Engelhardt, the cartoon by Kate Salley Palmer satirizing shifting gender roles, and the cartoon by Kate Salley Palmer satirizing opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment. Who were the audiences for these cartoons? How does each cartoon comment on the ERA? What makes the political cartoon an effective medium for this commentary?
  4. Use Martha Griffiths’s petition, the Michigan Women’s Commission pamphlet, and the statement by Representative Barbara Jordan to describe the ratification process and its obstacles for ERA supporters.
  5. Consider the photograph of supporters and opponents, the footage of an Equal Rights Amendment rally, the photograph of Tom Bradley, and the clip of Phyllis Schlafly. What do these sources suggest about who actively supported the ERA and who actively opposed it?
  6. Closely read the statement by the US Commission on Civil Rights. For what historical reasons does this report support the passage of the ERA?

Classroom activities

Although the Equal Rights Amendment failed to receive the necessary number of state ratifications and was not adopted, the issues it represents remain important to many contemporary feminists. Review the information in the statement by the US Commission on Civil Rights and ask students to do research to update its findings with contemporary information and statistics about marriage and divorce laws, women’s pay and sex-based discrimination in the workforce, specific protection for women in criminal law, and women’s equality in education. With this new research, ask students to draft individual letters to their Congressional representative outlining their findings and making a case for the ERA’s contemporary relevance or irrelevance. If students favor a new, updated version of the ERA, encourage them to propose broad changes in the letter.

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