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From the Southern Oral History Program, this is Press Record: a podcast about the joys and challenges of learning history by talking to those who lived it.

Episode 11: Oral History and the ERA

Welcome back listeners! For our first episode of 2017, we continue our discussion of women and politics in the South by focusing on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). While we were putting together last month’s episode, we noticed many women organizers and political leaders mentioned battles over the ERA in their interviews. As we dug deeper, we realized we had more than enough material to make an entirely new episode.



image courtesy of
Pauli Murray, image courtesy of








The ERA was a proposed constitutional amendment that codified equal rights between men and women. It was introduced to every session of congress since 1923 but ultimately failed in 1982. The story of the ERA follows the complex web of national and state legislature, the pitfalls of the ratification process, and deep partisan loyalty. However, on a deeper level, what happened to the ERA reveals major gaps in understanding among women who sometimes had profoundly different aspirations for American society. Oral history interviews about the ERA bring to light some of the main stresses on coalition-building.


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ERA March
image credit:

As it turns out, this episode is timely. The recent Women’s Marches are just one public example of the upsurge in activism and organizing activity. What can we learn, then, about the historical roots of our current moment? By looking back into the oral history archives about the ERA, we may better understand how women vocalized their concerns in their own words over the years.

First, graduate student in U.S. women’s history Danielle Balderas provides a brief historical overview of how the Equal Rights Amendment fared over the twentieth century. Then, we’ll delve into the archives to hear how women navigated these political battles. You’ll hear seven excerpts of oral history interviews gathered over the past five decades. Finally, we’ll take the discussion into the present and listen to Marena Groll, chair of NC4ERA and some recordings from the Women’s March on Washington to close out the episode.




Below are links to the full transcripts of interviews featured in the podcast listed in the order that they appear.

Guion Johnson

Rosamonde Boyd

Barbara Sylvester

Pauli Murray

Gwen Cherry

Elaine Barney

Eva Clayton

Find the link to NC4ERA here.

Find information about Roslyn Brock here.

Find more information about the Women’s March on Washington here.


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Episode 1- Silence Speaks Volumes

Episode 2: Back Ways

Episode 3: Feminism and Oral History

Episode 4: LGBTQ Southern Oral History and Activism

Episode 5: Pet Sounds

Episode 6: Sweet Emotion

Episode 7: Oral History For Movement Building

Episode 8: Voices From Charlotte

Episode 9: Veterans and Oral History

Episode 10: Women and Politics in the South

Episode 12: Revisiting “Back Ways”

Episode 13: New Roots/ Nuevas Raíces