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Failure of the Equal Rights Amendment: The Feminist Fight of the 1970s

Today’s post comes from Marisa Hawley, intern in the National Archives Strategy and Communications office.

As part of the “six weeks of style” celebration to recognize the Foundation for the National Archives’ partnership with DC Fashion Week, we are showcasing fashion-related records from our holdings. This week’s fashion theme is Get Your 1970s Groove On.

Women's Suffrage Day in Fountain Square, 08/1973. (National Archives Identifier 553307)

Women’s Suffrage Day in Fountain Square, 08/1973. (National Archives Identifier 553307)

After the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, suffragette Alice Paul felt that this right alone was not enough to eradicate gender discrimination in the United States. In 1923, she drafted the Equal Rights Amendment, which read:

Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

These seemingly simple words wielded enormous implications. Since its conception, the ERA has been a source of unremitting debate over whether or not total equality between men and women is worth the sacrifice of certain legislative protection. In fact, from 1923 to 1970, some form of the amendment was introduced in every session of Congress but was usually held up in committee and never put to a vote.

To get the ERA out of committee, Representative Martha Griffiths of Michigan filed a petition to demand that the amendment be heard by the full House. She successfully captured the 218 needed votes by lobbying members from both parties and securing help of then-Congressman Gerald Ford to secure the final votes needed for passage.

The Joint Resolution was adopted by the house on October 12, 1971, and the following spring it was adopted by the Senate on March 22, 1972.

Martha Griffiths at ERA rally in Houston, Texas, 1977. (ARC Identifier 7452294)

Martha Griffiths at ERA rally in Houston, Texas, 1977. (ARC Identifier 7452294)

Section one read:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex

Because amending the Constitution is a two-step process, the ERA still needed to be ratified by three-forth of the state legislatures even though it had passed through Congress. At first, there was strong public support for passage—by 1973, 30 of the necessary 38 states ratified the amendment.

Groups like the National Organization of Women (NOW) were compelling advocates for the ERA, claiming that its passage was necessary because the Constitution does not explicitly guarantee that the rights it protects are held equally by all citizens regardless of gender and it would provide a clearer judicial standard for deciding cases of sex discrimination.

Photograph of Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Posters on the Back of a Station Wagon, c. 1977. (ARC Identifier 7452296)

Photograph of Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Posters on the Back of a Station Wagon, c. 1977. (ARC Identifier 7452296)

After 1973, however, a highly organized opposition to the ERA emerged, suggesting that ratification would prove to be detrimental to women.

Opponents argued that passing the amendment would do away with protective laws like sexual assault and alimony, eliminate the tendency for mothers to receive child custody in a divorce case, and immediately make the all-male military draft unconstitutional.

By 1982, the year of expiration, only 35 of the necessary 38 states voted in favor of the ERA—three states short of ratification.

More information about Martha Griffiths and the ERA.

And check out one of the most hotly contested pieces of legislation nearly 90 years after its conception at the National Archives’ Records of Rights exhibit—the debate still simmers today!

Examine more “signature styles” and history-making signatures in our current exhibition, “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures,” in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.


Modesto Cartagena, the most decorated Hispanic soldier of the Korean War

English Version: Modesto Cartagena, the most decorated Hispanic soldier of the Korean War.

Continuing our celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, today’s post comes from Idaliz Marie Ortiz Morales, intern in the Office of Strategy and Communications at the National Archives. 

Korean War veteran, Sgt. 1st Class (ret) Modesto Cartagena, 12/02/2000. (National Archives Identifier: 6519402)

Korean War veteran, Sgt. 1st Class (ret) Modesto Cartagena, 12/02/2000.
(National Archives Identifier: 6519402)

Today we remember Modesto Cartagena, the most decorated Hispanic soldier of the Korean War.

Cartagena was a humble man born to a poor family who lived in the small town of Cayey, Puerto Rico. He was among the first from the island to volunteer for military service when the United States entered World War II. He served in the 65th Infantry Regiment, an all-Puerto Rican regiment also known as “The Borinqueneers,” during World War II and later in the Korean War.

During the Korean War, Cartagena earned the nickname “One Man Army.” Hill 206 near Yonchon, Korea, was heavily guarded on April 19, 1951, by a well-entrenched and fanatically determined hostile force. While under attack, Cartagena destroyed four enemy emplacements before he was wounded, thus saving the lives of the men in his unit and enabling the company to take the hill.

Cartagena spent 20 years in the Army before retiring as a sergeant first class in 1971.Even in retirement he continued to be an active figure around the 65 Infantry Headquarters. According to Cartagena, his only regret was that he was too old to serve in Afghanistan. As a part of his legacy, January 4, 2007 was officially declared as “SFC Modesto Cartagena Day” in Hartford, Connecticut. An avenue in his native town of Cayey is also named after him.

Cartagena was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions in Korea. Among his many other military decorations are the Silver Star Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was also awarded the Military Medal of Honor of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico.

His family has initiated a campaign in Congress to award Cartagena the Medal of Honor posthumously. His supporters have argued that the Army’s segregation policy, at that time, and the limited English capacity of his company members when filling out the forms for the application, resulted in his being awarded the nation’s second-highest decoration on September 16, 1951.

Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Jose Pene, left, Sgt. 1st. Class Modesto Cartagena, second left, and CSM Angel Kuiland, right, veterans of the Korean War during a ceremony at the US Army Reserve center in Puerto Nuevo, Puerto Rico. (National Archives Identifier: 6519407)

Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Jose Pene, left, Sgt. 1st. Class Modesto Cartagena, second left, and CSM Angel Kuiland, right, veterans of the Korean War during a ceremony at the US Army Reserve center in Puerto Nuevo, Puerto Rico. (National Archives Identifier: 6519407)

Cartagena died on March 2, 2010, in Guayama, Puerto Rico, following a long battle with stomach cancer.

Four years later, H.R. 1726 passed favorably in the House of Representatives on May 19, 2014. Three days later on May 22, 2014, the Senate approved S. 1174. The Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Bill went to President Barack Obama, who signed the legislation at an official ceremony on June 10, 2014. The 65th Infantry is the first Hispanic military unit, and the first unit of the Korean War, to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

En españolModesto Cartagena el soldado hispano más condecorado de la Guerra de Corea.

Continuando con nuestra celebración en el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana, este artículo proviene de la interna Idaliz Marie Ortiz Morales, de la Oficina de Estrategia y Comunicaciones de los Archivos Nacionales.

Veterano de la Guerra de Corea, el Sargento de Primera Clase (Ret) Modesto Cartagena, 12/02/2000 (Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 6519402)

Veterano de la Guerra de Corea, el Sargento de Primera Clase (Ret) Modesto Cartagena, 12/02/2000
(Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 6519402)

Hoy recordamos a Modesto Cartagena, el soldado hispano más condecorado de la Guerra de Corea.

Cartagena era un hombre humilde nacido de una familia pobre que vivía en el pequeño pueblo de Cayey en Puerto Rico. Él fue uno de los primeros de la isla en ser voluntario para el servicio militar, cuando los Estados Unidos entró a la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Sirvió en el 65 Regimiento de Infantería, un regimiento de Puertorriqueños también conocidos como “Los Borinqueneers”, durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial y más tarde en la Guerra de Corea.

En la Guerra de Corea Cartagena se ganó el apodo de “One Man Army.” El 19 de abril de 1951, la colina 206 cerca de Yonchon, Corea, fue fuertemente custodiada, por un corazado y fanáticamente determinada fuerza hostil. Mientras estaban bajo ataque, Cartagena destruyó cuatro emplazamientos enemigos antes de que él resultará herido, salvando así la vida de los hombres de su unidad y logró que la unidad tomará poseción de la colina.

Cartagena pasó 20 años en el ejército antes de retirarse como un Sargento Primera Clase en 1971. Aunque retirado él seguía siendo una figura activa en torno a la sede de la 65 de Infantería. Según Cartagena, lo único que lamentaba era que era demasiado viejo para servir en Afganistán. Como parte de su legado, el 4 de enero de 2007, se declaró oficialmente como “El Día de SFC Modesto Cartagena” en la ciudad de Hartford, Connecticut. De igual manera, una avenida en su pueblo natal de Cayey lleva el nombre de él.

Cartagena recibió la Cruz de Servicios Distinguidos, el segundo reconocimiento más alto luego de la Medalla de Honor, por sus acciones heroícas en Korea. Entre sus muchas otras condecoraciones militares lo son  la Medalla de la Estrella de Plata, la Legión de Mérito, la Medalla de la Estrella de Bronce y la Medalla del Corazón Púrpura. También fue galardonado con la Medalla Militar de Honor de la Asamblea Legislativa de Puerto Rico.

Su familia ha asumido la responsabilidad de hacer una petición al Congreso, para que se le otorgue la Medalla de Honor a Cartagena como título póstumo. Han recibido apoyo en su campaña por parte del Senador Marco Rubio de Florida. Sus seguidores sostienen que la política de segregación del ejército, en esos tiempos, y la limitada capacidad del Inglés de los miembros de su compañía al llenar los formularios para la solicitud, dio lugar a la adjudicación de la decoración de segundo rango más alto de la nación, “La Cruz de Servicio Distinguido” el 16 de Septiembre de 1951.

Sargento Mayor de Comando (CSM) José Pene, izquierda, Sargento de Primera Clase Modesto Cartagena, segundo a la izquierda, y CSM Ángel Kuiland, derecha, veteranos de la Guerra de Corea, durante una ceremonia que se celebra en el centro de la Reserva del Ejército de Estados Unidos en Puerto Nuevo, Puerto Rico.  (Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 6519407)

Sargento Mayor de Comando (CSM) José Pene, izquierda, Sargento de Primera Clase Modesto Cartagena, segundo a la izquierda, y CSM Ángel Kuiland, derecha, veteranos de la Guerra de Corea, durante una ceremonia que se celebra en el centro de la Reserva del Ejército de Estados Unidos en Puerto Nuevo, Puerto Rico.
(Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 6519407)

Cartagena murió en Guayama, Puerto Rico, el 2 de marzo de 2010, después de una larga batalla con el cáncer de estómago.

Un proyecto de ley, conocido como HR 1726, fue aprobado favorablemente en la Cámara el 19 de mayo de 2014. Tres días después, el 22 de mayo de 2014, el Senado aprobó el proyecto de ley S. 1174. La “CGM Bill Borinqueneers” pasó al presidente Barack Obama, quien firmó la legislación en una ceremonia oficial el 10 de junio de 2014. El 65 de Infantería es la primera unidad militar hispana, y la primera unidad de la Guerra de Corea, en recibir la Medalla de Oro del Congreso.


I am an American

September 17 marks the annual celebration known as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

On the morning of June 18, 2014, in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building First Lady Michelle Obama congratulated a room full of 35 new American citizens and their families. Her speech marked the culmination of a process that individuals have taken part in since the founding of this nation—becoming naturalized citizens of the United States of America.

First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson, and new citizen Juan Cua Monroy lead the new citizens in the Pledge of Allegiance in the National Archives, June 18, 2014. (Photo Credit: Jeff Reed, National Archives)

First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson, and new citizen Juan Cua Monroy lead the new citizens in the Pledge of Allegiance in the National Archives, June 18, 2014. (Photo Credit: Jeff Reed, National Archives)

Naturalization is the process by which a non-citizen acquires citizenship. Over the course of U.S. history, the process of naturalization has been subject to differing degrees of pomp and circumstance.

In 1940, Congress passed a resolution authorizing the President to issue an annual proclamation designating the third Sunday in May as “I Am An American Day.” Many towns and cities celebrated the new holiday with special ceremonies recognizing newly naturalized citizens.

In 1952, Congress re-named the holiday and moved it to September 17, but its purpose remained the same. Now called “Citizenship Day,” it commemorated the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787, and recognized “all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.”

The 1952 law also urged proper observance of the day and “for the complete instruction of citizens in their responsibilities and opportunities as citizens of the United States and of the State and locality in which they reside.” As of 2004, observance of the day, now formally called “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” also includes educational programs and materials for Federal employees and public educational facilities.

Both “I Am An American Day” and “Citizenship Day” made special naturalization ceremonies central to the celebration of American Citizenship. In doing so they contributed to a larger post–World War II effort to elevate the process of becoming an American from a routine court procedure to dignified ceremony that recognized and celebrated the significance of citizenship.

Since the 1970s, the National Archives has commemorated Citizenship Day with naturalization ceremonies in its Rotunda. The first documented naturalization ceremony occurred on September 14, 1978, when 30 individuals were sworn in as U.S. citizens in front of the Charters of Freedom.

A particularly exciting naturalization ceremony occurred in the Rotunda of the National Archives on September 17, 1987, a day that not only marked the occasion for 30 individuals to become Americans but was also the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

Some of the nation’s newest citizen’s swear allegiance to the United Sates in a naturalization ceremony held in the National Archives, undated. (Photo Credit: Hugh Talman, National Archives)

Some of the nation’s newest citizen’s swear allegiance to the United Sates in a naturalization ceremony held in the National Archives, undated. (Photo Credit: Hugh Talman, National Archives)

The naturalization ceremony culminated five days of spectacular celebration that included a run by 200 Army personnel who carried a copy of the Constitution from the steps of the National Archives to Fort Monroe in Virginia and an 87-hour vigil in the Rotunda in which all four pages of the Constitution were on display (at that time only the first and last pages were on permanent display).

The National Archives has continued to hold naturalization ceremonies, and they have become favorite events for many Archivists, including the current Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero.

Featured speakers and noted guests have included celebrities, sports icons, current and past Presidents, the Archivist of the United States, and most recently our First Lady.

The National Archives has also held naturalization ceremonies in December to commemorate the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

Becoming a United States citizen is an momentous event. Taking the Oath of Allegiance in front of the documents that created this nation only amplifies its significance. First Lady Michelle Obama summed up this feeling in her recent remarks at the ceremony at the National Archives:

It’s amazing that just a few feet from here where I’m standing are the signatures of the 56 Founders who put their names on a Declaration that changed the course of history. And like the 50 of you, none of them were born American—they became American.


On Exhibit: The Judiciary Act of 1789

An Act to Establish the Federal Courts of the United States, 09/24/1789. (National Archives Identifier 1501550)

An Act to Establish the Federal Courts of the United States, 09/24/1789.
(National Archives Identifier 1501550)

Continuing our celebration of the 225th Anniversary of the First Congress the National Archives is displaying the original Judiciary Act of 1789.

For three months beginning September 17, 2014, you can see the landmark piece of legislation in the Rubenstein Gallery at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Article III of the U.S. Constitution established the Supreme Court but gave Congress the authority to create lower Federal courts at its discretion. One of the first actions the First Congress took was to establish a Federal court system.

On April 7, 1789—just one day after the Senate reached a quorum for the first time—the Senate appointed a committee to prepare a bill organizing the judiciary of the United States.

After two months of work, the committee reported the first bill ever introduced into the United States Senate—S. 1, a bill to establish the Judicial Courts of the United States, what would become known as the Judiciary Act of 1789.

The bill’s principal author was Senator Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut. A key member at the Constitutional Convention, Ellsworth would eventually become Chief Justice of the United States in 1796.

President George Washington's Nomination of Judges, Attorneys, and Marshalls, September 24, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

President George Washington’s Nomination of Judges, Attorneys, and Marshalls, September 24, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Major provisions of the bill included setting the number of Supreme Court justices at six, creating 13 federal court districts, and creating the office of the Attorney General to represent the United States before the Supreme Court. It also created a United States Attorney and United States Marshal for each judicial district.

On September 24, 1789, President George Washington signed the Judiciary Act of 1789. That same day he nominated the first Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court as well as district judges, United States Attorneys, and United States Marshals.

The Federal judiciary system that Congress created back in 1789 is essentially the same structure as we still have today.

The Center for Legislative Archives is marking the 225th anniversary of the First Congress by sharing documents on Tumblr  and Twitter; use #Congress225 to see all the postings.


National Hispanic Heritage Month/Mes de la Herencia Hispana

Today’s post comes from Idaliz Marie Ortiz Morales, intern in the Office of Strategy and Communications at the National Archives.

AFIS billboard posters. Hispanic Heritage Month. Defense Billboard #81, 01/01/2000. (National Archives Identifier: 6507500)

AFIS billboard posters. Hispanic Heritage Month. Defense Billboard #81, 01/01/2000.
(National Archives Identifier: 6507500)

National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 in celebration and recognition of the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. Hispanics have had a profound and positive influence on our country through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work, and service. They have enhanced and shaped our national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multiethnic and multicultural customs of their community.

This celebration started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was later expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.

Mexican painting, Humboldt fragment III, ca. 1871 - ca. 1907. (National Archives Identifier: 523581)

Mexican painting, Humboldt fragment III, ca. 1871 – ca. 1907.
(National Archives Identifier: 523581)

The term Hispanic and Latino, refers to Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. On the 2010 Census form, people of Spanish, Hispanic and/or Latino origin could identify themselves as Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or “another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.”

According to this Census, 50.5 million people or 16% of the population are of Hispanic or Latino origin. This represents a significant increase from 2000, which registered the Hispanic population at 35.3 million or 13% of the total U.S. population.

Share with us in this special annual tribute by learning and celebrating the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.

En español:

El post de hoy viene de Idaliz Marie Ortiz Morales, Interna en la Oficina de Estrategias de Planificacion y Comunicaciones en los Archivos Nacionales.

AFIS cartel publicitario. Mes de la Herencia Hispana. Cartel de Defensa #81, 01/01/2000. (Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 6507500)

AFIS cartel publicitario. Mes de la Herencia Hispana. Cartel de Defensa #81, 01/01/2000.
(Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 6507500)

El Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana se celebra desde el 15 de Septiembre hasta el 15 de octubre en celebración y reconocimiento de las historias, culturas y contribuciones de los ciudadanos estadounidenses cuyos ancestros vinieron de España, México, el Caribe, Centro y Sur América. Los hispanos han tenido una influencia profunda y positiva en nuestro país a través de su firme compromiso con la familia, la fe, el trabajo duro y el servicio. Ellos han mejorado y dado forma a nuestro carácter nacional con tradiciones centenarias que reflejan las costumbres multiétnicas y multiculturales de su comunidad.

Esta celebración se inició en 1968 como la Semana de Herencia Hispana durante la presidencia de Lyndon Johnson y más tarde fue ampliado por el presidente Ronald Reagan en 1988 para cubrir un período de 30 días a partir del 15 de septiembre y finalizará el 15 de octubre. Fue promulgada como ley el 17 de agosto 1988 con la aprobación de la Ley Pública 100-402.

El día del 15 de septiembre es importante ya que es el aniversario de la independencia de los países latinoamericanos Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras y Nicaragua. Además, México y Chile celebran su independencia el 16 de septiembre y el 18 de septiembre, respectivamente. También, el Día de Colón o Día de la Raza, que es el 12 de octubre cae dentro de este período de 30 días.

Pintura mexicana del fragmento de Humboldt III, ca. 1871 - ca. 1907. (Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 523581)

Pintura mexicana del fragmento de Humboldt III, ca. 1871 – ca. 1907.
(Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 523581)

El término hispano y latino, se refiere a  personas de Puerto Rico, Sur y Centro América y de otra cultura u origen español, independientemente de su raza. En el formulario del Censo de 2010 la población de origen Española, hispano y/o latino podían identificarse como mexicanos, mexicano americano, chicano, puertorriqueño, cubano u “otro origen hispano, latino o español”.

Según este censo, 50.5 millones de personas o el 16% de la población son de origen hispano o latino. Esto representa un aumento significativo desde el año 2000, que registró la población hispana en 35.3 millones o el 13% de la población total de EE.UU..

Comparte con nosotros este especial homenaje que se celebra anualmente mediante el aprendizaje y la celebración de todas las generaciones de Hispano Americanos que han influido positivamente y han enriquecido  a nuestra nación y sociedad.