Former Congresswoman Martha Griffiths, leading co-sponsor of the sex discrimination language in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and a leader in the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, died on Tuesday at 91. “Her commitment and determination to advance opportunities for women will be felt by generations of young women who will never know her, but are living the dreams she fought so long and hard for,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said in a statement the Associated Press reported.
Griffiths, always a pioneer, established her own law firm in 1946, served three years in the Michigan State House of Representatives, served two years as the first female judge on the Detroit Recorder’s Court, served 20 years in the US House of Representatives beginning in 1954, and served two terms as Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor. Griffiths is the only woman who has served in all three branches of Michigan government, Michigan Democratic Party Executive Chairman Mark Brewer told WOTV 41.
Griffiths’ most notable accomplishments include successfully amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sex discrimination language and managing to gain passage of the Equal Rights Amendment after it had languished for almost 50 years. Passed overwhelmingly in 1972, the ERA ultimately fell just three states short of the 38 needed for ratification when the 1982 deadline expired.
The ERA has been reintroduced every Congress, and currently there is a renewed movement in several states to ratify the ERA. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, was one of the leaders of the drive to ratify the ERA from 1972-1982. “We must keep introducing the ERA until women win equality,” Smeal said. “As the Bush administration continues to turn back the clock on women’s rights, the ERA is needed now more than ever. Without a constitutional guarantee, the progress women have made over the past 30 years is endangered.”
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