When the Illinois Senate voted 43-12 to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (with no debate!), many credited the #MeToo movement.
The timing would certainly indicate as much. The deadline to ratify the amendment, after all, expired in 1982. Something inspired the Senate to take up the measure almost four decades later, and the energy surrounding #MeToo is undeniable.
But let's not underestimate the power of a coloring book. (OK, a coloring book plus #MeToo.)
On Equal Pay Day, which was, April 10, the day before the Senate vote, members of the American Association of University Women handed out copies of "Equal: An Activity Book" to General Assembly members with a letter attached from Illinois AAUW President Sallie Miller urging them to vote yes on the resolution.
"Before the General Assembly is an important piece of legislation – a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and add women to the U.S. Constitution," Miller wrote in her letter. "The substantive clause of the amendment reads, 'Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.'
"We believe these 24 words will elevate sex classification to a 'strict scrutiny' standard of review now used for race, ethnicity and national origin."
And here are some illustrations that would help even a child grasp why this is long overdue.
(I added that part.)
The 16-page coloring/activity book, illustrated by artist Caitlin Ward and printed at a local, women-owned union print shop, includes the following:
– A women's rights word search: Find "Ruth Ginsburg," "wage gap" and "strict scrutiny" in a block of scrambled letters.
– 10 Illinois women to know: Match the Illinois native (Carol Moseley Braun, Betty Friedan, Mae Jemison) to her impressive feats.
– Four ways through the maze: "Gender equality under the law can be achieved through a number of strategies. Which path will you take?"
– Color in a suffragist: Led by Ida B. Wells, who integrated a 1913 march for suffrage in Washington, D.C.
AAUW crowdsourced $1,405 to fund the book. It will also be distributed to libraries, schools and houses of worship.
As for the amendment, now that it's passed the Senate, it heads to the House for a vote.
Originally, the ERA needed 38 states to ratify it, but only 35 did so by the 1982 deadline. Illinois was not among the 35 that voted to ratify it (although the Illinois Constitution includes language that protects against discrimination based on sex).
It's unclear whether voting to pass the amendment now would result in the ERA being added to the U.S. Constitution, but advocates are arguing that it's worth a shot.
I agree. Especially because it inspired this delightful activity book, which I will now be sneaking into all birthday gifts from my children.
(Contact Heidi Stevens at email@example.com, or on Twitter: @heidistevens13.)