Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.
Amelia Earhart and four other members of the National Woman’s Party lobbied for the Lucretia Mott (Equal Rights) Amendment today at a meeting with President Hoover in the White House.
Earhart and Anita Pollitzer did most of the talking, with the President paying close attention to what they had to say. Long-time N.W.P. members Burnita Matthews, Anna Kelton Wiley and Ruth Taunton were also present. Earhart told Hoover:
I know from practical experience of the discriminations which confront women when they enter an occupation where men have priority in opportunity, advancement and protection. In aviation the Department of Commerce recognizes no differences between men and women licensed to fly. I feel that similar equality should be carried into all fields of endeavor, so that men and women may achieve without handicap because of sex.
As far as our country is concerned, in every State of the Union today there are discriminations against women in the law. I join with the National Woman’s Party in hoping for the speedy passage of the Lucretia Mott Amendment, which would write into the highest law of our land that ‘men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.’ Your own statements on equality of opportunity make me believe you understand our desire.
At a meeting with an N.W.P. delegation on January 5th of last year, the President expressed his opposition to the growing practice of firing married women workers to make jobs available to men as a means of allegedly easing the unemployment crisis.
Anita Pollitzer said: “Do you realize, Mr. President, that there is no single State in the Union today where all the laws apply equally to men and women? In almost one-half of the States women are limited in their power to contract or to carry on a business.” She then left a report with Mr. Hoover summarizing the many laws that discriminate against women.
Earhart has expressed feminist views many times before. On May 8th of last year she told 250 Barnard College students at their annual Barnard Athletic Association Dinner that the educational system was based on “sex, not aptitude,” and that it was unfair for girls to be shunted into cooking and sewing classes solely on account of their sex:
I know a great many boys who should be making pies – and a great many girls who would be better off in manual training. There is no reason why a woman can’t hold any position in aviation providing she can overcome prejudices and show ability.
On June 24th of this year she reaffirmed that she would keep her “flying name” despite her marriage to George Palmer Putnam on February 7, 1931.
Her most recent aviation feat was a solo flight from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, to Northern Ireland on May 20th to 21st, the fifth anniversary of Lindbergh’s first solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1927. No one other than Earhart and Lindbergh have flown across the North Atlantic alone, and Earhart is the only person to have crossed the Atlantic twice by airplane. Her first time was as a passenger on June 17-18, 1928. Women’s aviation is growing rapidly here in the U.S. On January 1, 1929, there were only 34 licensed women pilots, but as of this Spring, there were 512.
The Lucretia Mott (Equal Rights) Amendment was written by Alice Paul, and has become the National Woman’s Party’s top priority since the suffrage campaign ended on August 26, 1920. At the N.W.P.’s national convention on February 16, 1921, there was a unanimous and enthusiastic call for “absolute equality,” and work was begun on drafting legislation to bring that about.
On July 21, 1923, at an N.W.P. convention celebrating the 75th anniversary of the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls in 1848, the exact wording was set, and the amendment officially endorsed by the party members. At Alice Paul’s suggestion, it was decided to name it for pioneer feminist Lucretia Mott.
On December 10, 1923, the Mott (Equal Rights) Amendment was introduced into the Senate by Senator Charles Curtis of Kansas. Three days later, a fellow Kansas Republican, Representative Daniel Anthony (a nephew of Susan B. Anthony) introduced it into the House, where the first hearings were held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee two months later.
The amendment continues to pick up support, and the campaign will continue until equality is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, no matter how long it may take.