Document 1: Bernadine Smith to National League Offices, 14 April 1943, Folder: Correspondence-State/National-Personal, 1939-1947, Box 19, League of Women Voters of Iowa papers, Iowa Women's Archives, University of Iowa.
On April 14, 1943, Bernadine Smith, President of the League of Women Voters of Iowa, wrote the following letter to the National League Office regarding a broadside published by the League opposing the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). This document substantiates the League's alignment with working women in opposing the ERA and illustrates why Senator Gillette (the amendment's sponsor) supported the ERA. One noteworthy element of this letter is that Smith made reference to an article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette suggesting there was some press coverage of the debate over the amendment.
April 14, 1943.
National League of Women Voters.
726 Jackson Place,
Dear National Offices:
I believe you asked for a report on how the Equal Rights broadsides were received by our congressmen and others to whom they were sent. Within the leagues there seemed to be general agreement that this broadside was not up to the usual standard and that it ignored too completely the good old ancient and sufficient reason that passage of the amendment would do away with the protections established for women in industry; that the questions raised on the broadside would not be given serious consideration anyway. With this you may not agree but I quote it to you in honest fashion that you may hear all sides of the evaluation.
Letters were received in answer from all of our Iowa Congressmen. Two of them (Reps. Martin and Salle) were strictly form letters acknowledging receipt of same. Rep. Cunningham asked for further information which will be sent him.
Rep. LeCompte says that "I appreciate having your advice on this measure and will have your letter before me in the event the bill any time reaches the House for consideration.
Rep. Jensen labels it "a most convincing argument."
Rep. Hoeven says that he has received several letters in opposition to the proposed amendment. (He is from our one district without a league!)
Rep. Gwynne says that the Congress should make a thorough investigation of the effect of such an amendment on legislation existing in the various states.
Rep. Gilchrist says, thinking only of Iowa and not of the nation; "There is not a single thing under Iowa law which is given to men which women do not equally enjoy. In other words, under Iowa law women already have equal rights. I have asked many splendid ladies who write in about it to tell me what, under Iowa law discriminates. I want to know. But I believe there are states in which women do not have equal rights."
Senator Wilson says that we may be sure that measures which will have the effect to jeopardize the rights of women on our statute books will not receive his support.
From Senator Gillette, who as you know, sponsored the bill, and to whom I based a special plea asking him to re-consider his stand, came a copy of the bill with the following comment, "I realize, of course, there are differences of opinion as to the advisability of such a proposal, but frankly I do not see how anyone can object to the presentation to the American people for their decision and determination of any proposal that has a strong backing. Senate Resolution 25 simply provides that the Congress submit a proposed amendment along the line suggested. If and when the legislatures of three-fourths of the state[s] ratify the proposal, it will become a part of the constitution; otherwise not."
The Cedar Rapids Gazette Washington Correspondent is a native of the same county as the one in which I now live. He had quoted Rep. Cunningham as being in favor of the amendment, so I sent him a broadside with a suitable comment. The enclosed clipping shows that it received attention and suitable publicity in a paper which serves a very large section of Iowa.
These broadsides went also to some of our party leaders and state officials in Iowa, both men and women. They were not sent to all legislators in Iowa for reasons which our board considered sufficient. Some of these replies would indicate that the broadside had been read too hastily and that the opinion was that the League was favoring the amendment! These were also sent to some of our best guest distributors over the state, but I have no reply to any of these as yet.
I trust these reports are sufficiently informative. I believe our Rep. Cunningham is a key man in the Iowa delegation to be reached with further information.
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