For nearly 150 years, our nation’s foundational document did not acknowledge the existence of women. In 1920, the concept of equality among the sexes appeared in the Constitution for the first time but was limited to the right to vote. Women continued to push for an end to discrimination based on sex through a more comprehensive measure—the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

Finally, in January 2020—on the centennial of the 19th Amendment—Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA. That’s important because the Constitution requires that any amendments be ratified by three-fourths—or 38—of the states. Despite achieving the threshold of approval by 38 states, the federal Department of Justice instructed the national archivist to halt any effort to add the ERA to the Constitution because the Virginia’s ratification happened after a 1982 deadline set by Congress.

The three states to most recently ratify the ERA—Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia—are challenging this arbitrary deadline and demanding in court that the archivist to proceed to enshrine the ERA in the Constitution. At least 17 other states have also voiced their support.

Rachel’s Network, along with founder Winsome McIntosh’s McIntosh Foundation, have filed an amicus brief supporting these three states in their lawsuit against the federal government. They have been joined by a host of other organizations including The American Association of University Women, the League of Women Voters of Virginia, the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, and many more.

As an organization dedicated to women’s leadership on the environment, Rachel’s Network knows that failing to uphold equality does a serious disservice not only to women, but our planet as well. Multiple studies show that when women ascend to leadership positions, organizations, and society benefit. Our When Women Lead report demonstrates that women in Congress vote more often in favor of environmental legislation than their male counterparts. Elevating more women leaders in government, businesses, and civil society is essential if we’re to live sustainably on this planet.

“Our own research clearly shows what happens when women are left out of environmental policy discussions in Congress. The understanding that this inequality plays out across our society, not merely in our own sector, is what prompted us to join this brief,” said Rachel’s Network President Fern Shepard.

“From the age of 25, I have been disappointed in not having the Equal Rights Amendment securely in the Constitution. By the age of 75 I was determined to try my best to complete the job. I’m devoted to the effort until success for every woman and girl’s equality under the law is established,” said Rachel’s Network Founder Winsome McIntosh.

It has been too long and the American people have made their voices clear—we must commit to equality regardless of sex by adopting the ERA as the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution.


Rachel’s Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is a community of women who come together at the intersection of environment, philanthropy, and women’s leadership to exchange ideas and contribute to a healthier world. Named in honor of environmentalist Rachel Carson, its mission is to promote women as agents of change dedicated to the stewardship of the earth.

Photo: Sally T. Buck/Flickr

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