Mary Church Terrell

Testimony Before The House Judiciary Committee On the Equal Rights Amendment - March 10, 1948

Mary Church Terrell
March 10, 1948— Washington, D.C.
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Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, Mrs. Miller has just whispered to me that I have one second and a half by the clock, but since it would take me two hours and a half to express my opinion, I will just read this short statement.

There is no doubt, that generally speaking, the minds of our Senators and Representatives are full of important matters affecting the welfare of our country as a whole plus their respective States. It is easily conceivable, therefore, that a certain question or problem may at times fail to receive the careful consideration which it deserves. Perhaps the equal-rights amendment may be one of these.

So I am now appealing to each and every member of the House Judiciary Committee to take the time and the pains to consider carefully the many strong reasons why the Equal Rights Amendments deserves his support. It would be an unwarranted reflection upon the integrity and sense of justice of those Congressmen who have opposed it in the past to accuse them of deliberately and willfully withholding for a group of loyal citizens, simply because they happen to be women, that equality of right which is necessary to enable them to earn a living or in some cases to make a brilliant record for themselves along certain lines of human endeavor and at the same time to make valuable contributions to their country which it is now deprived.

I am sure the members of the House Judiciary Committee who have opposed the Equal Rights Amendment have not taken that stand simply because they want to be unjust or unkind to women, but because they have failed to realize that, owing to the conditions under which they are living today, it is absolutely necessary for women to secure the rights for which they are asking so that they will no longer be the victims of the cruel injustice which will continue to humiliate, handicap and harass them in the future as it has done for so many years in the past.

Many years ago it was customary for men in all walks of life to support their families . . . But today conditions are entirely changed. Today thousands of women are obliged to support themselves and their families . . . Today women sorely need the kind of help to discharge their duties and obligations to their families which the Equal Rights Amendments could so easily afford. It is hard to believe that the men in this country who have it in their power to deal justly in this particular will refuse any longer to enact this legislation which will redress a wrong and lighten the burdens which thousands of women now unnecessarily bear. As unbelievable as it may appear, it has actually come to pass that the Equal Rights provision in the Constitution of Japan enacted a few years ago, enables the Japanese women to enjoy advantages and opportunities which are denied the women of the United States.

Finally, Gentlemen of the Judiciary Committee, when you consider the Equal Rights Amendment this new year, I appeal to you in the name of Justice to make a favorable report.

Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution and Commission on the Legal Status of Women. 1948. Hearings before the Subcommittee No. 1 of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. Google Scholar.