Award Date

12-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History

Department

History

First Committee Member

Joanne Goodwin, Chair

Second Committee Member

Marcia Gallo

Third Committee Member

Elizabeth Nelson

Fourth Committee Member

Michelle Tusan

Graduate Faculty Representative

Ralph Buechler

Number of Pages

212

Abstract

This dissertation examines Nevada‟s Equal Rights Amendment ratification campaign spanning from 1973 through 1981. Using legislative records, newspapers, archival records, oral histories and interviews; this work traces the creation of two distinct political cultures that arose in Nevada during this period. Women from both sides of this debate sought to make themselves heard in the political deliberations over this proposed amendment; thus finding new agency with which to express their political views. As ERA activists led a grassroots campaign for equality under the law, conservative women mobilized existing church networks to effect a massive counter attack. In the end, while ratification failed, both sides ultimately broadened the space for women‟s political voice.


By studying two distinct women's political cultures in Nevada during the 1970s, my research relied on creating sources as well as pouring over volumes of oftentimes untouched archival materials. This methodology underscores the importance of oral histories and archival records in shaping the histories of the recent past. While the ratification campaign both nationally and in Nevada witnessed the morphing of the drive for legal equality into an ideological battle over the authority to dictate gender relations, it nonetheless politicized women as never before. These energized communities of women expanded the sphere of politics well beyond that of public office; thereby changing the composition of our elected offices, altering legislation, opening the legislative chambers, and expanding the scope of political discourse. In shaking women‟s gendered beliefs and core values, the Equal Rights Amendment ratification campaign invigorated women‟s political voice and created new political spaces. The story of Nevada‟s ERA ratification campaign is not one of failure, rather it is one of women united in common beliefs and convictions, becoming energized and engaged in new political communities to expand the body politic and shape political discourse.

Keywords

Equal rights amendments; Nevada; Women — Political activity; Women's rights

Disciplines

History | Political History | United States History | Women's History

Language

English