Found in the Archives: The Capitol March for the Equal Rights Amendment in Tallahassee

October is American Archives Month! As an institution that works alongside and documents the local community, I wanted to highlight two collections housed in the Claude Pepper Library that illustrate local political action in our historic capitol: The National Organization of Women, Tallahassee Chapter Records and the League of Women Voters, Tallahassee Chapter Records.

The beginning of the 1980s marked a decisive moment in American Politics: the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). This amendment guaranteed that the United States and individual States would not deny or abridge the equality of rights based on sex. While Alice Paul authored the first form of this amendment in 1923, it would not be until March 22, 1972 that both the Senate and House of Representatives introduced the amendment and set the stage for future state ratifications. The National Organization of Women (NOW) led advocacy and activism efforts to convince legislatures to ratify the amendment throughout the 1970s. It fell short of the necessary number by the 1979 deadline. 

Flyer with general information about the Equal Rights Amendment Capitol March in Tallahassee on June 8, 1982.
Capital March for ERA Flyer, June 6, 1982, National Organization of Women, Tallahassee Chapter Records, Box 16, Folder 6, Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives, Tallahassee, Florida.

After a successful march organized by NOW in Washington D.C., congress extended the deadline to June 30, 1982. However, the amendment was three states shy of the thirty-eight required that year. Florida was one of fifteen states that had not yet ratified the amendment. The local Tallahassee chapter of NOW organized a march on the unratified Florida capitol to take place on June 8, several weeks before the new deadline. 

Alongside NOW, the League of Women Voters (LOWV) Tallahassee Chapter, faculty from FSU and FAMU, and a breadth of other local organizations joined the march where some might have worn buttons like the ones below. This demonstration was a final push for ERA supporters to convince the Florida legislature to ratify the amendment. While the Florida House of Representatives passed the measure, the senate defeated it. Ultimately, the 1982 deadline passed without the needed ratifications. 

Three Equal Rights Amendment buttons.
ERA buttons, National Organization of Women, Tallahassee Chapter Records, Box 35, Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives, Tallahassee, Florida.

Despite defeat in 1982, to this day activists push to gain the three necessary states for the ERA’s ratification. The ERA and the local chapters of NOW and LOWV are just one example of American politics documented in Special Collections & Archives. Portions of the local chapter records for both NOW and LOWV are available remotely in the Digital Library.

While direct access to physical collections is unavailable at this time due to Covid-19, we hope to resume in-person research when it is safe to do so, and Special Collections & Archives is still available to assist you remotely with research and instruction. Please get in touch with us via email at: lib-specialcollections@fsu.edu. For a full list of our remote services, please visit our services page.

Sources:

Alice Paul Institute, The Equal Rights Amendment: A Brief History , “Resources,” Equal Rights Amendment, 2018, https://www.equalrightsamendment.org/resources.

Capital March for ERA Flyer, June 6, 1982, National Organization of Women Tallahassee Chapter Records, Box 16, Folder 6, Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives, Tallahassee, Florida.

ERA buttons, National Organization of Women Tallahassee Chapter Records, Box 35, Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives, Tallahassee, Florida.

Participant sign-up sheet, National Organization of Women Tallahassee Chapter Records, Box 16, Folder 6, Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives, Tallahassee, Florida.

Voter: League of Women Voters of Tallahassee, Florida, June, 1982, League of Women Voters, Tallahassee Chapter Records, Box 10, Folder 2, Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives, Tallahassee, Florida.

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