The 1920s have long been touted as an age of female enlightenment, as women set a course of equality and cracked the foundations of women's sphere. Portraits were drawn of stereotypical '20s femmes; crimson-lipped, bob-haired and befringed flappers peering down their ivory cigarette holders at restrictive Victorian mores; stalwart, placard-toting suffragettes proclaiming the need for female political activism; fresh-faced college coeds donning crisp shirtwaists to tap out office memos on shiny modern typewriters. American women contested traditional views of the female as moral guardian and domestic servant and challenged the nation to accept their egalitarian beliefs.
But after the initial surge of support for women's rights with the
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Such disparity did not bode well for the Equal Rights Amendment. Discussion passed through Senate and House committees, until 1936, when the House Subcommittee favored the ERA for the first time and endorsed the amendment. In 1938, the Senate judiciary Committee reported it onto the floor. During the 1940 presidential race, the ERA became an election issue for the first time when the Republican party offered its support to the cause. But opposition to the idea of equal rights far outweighed the meager support it received.
Even among supporters, differing ideologies clashed. Senate hearings in 1931 revealed that the Women's Party supported the amendment as a protection from the current discrimination against women in salary, hiring and education. Listing approximately 1,000 discriminatory state laws -- including laws in 11 states which gave a husband control over his wife's wages the party argued against those who the ERA would weaken protective legislation. Such legislation often restricted the number of hours a woman could work, or the type of labor she could perform, making her less competitive in the industrial workforce.
Indeed, the split of female opinion on this issue would be divisive, as clear cut" feminists refused protective legislation on the principle that it impeded equal rights for men and women, while other