Yes, Virginia, There Is an ERA

By Ross Altman, PhD

ERALeague of Women Voters Applauds Virginia for Ratification of ERA

RALEIGH, NC, January 15, 2020 – The League of Women Voters of Wake County (LWV-Wake) applauds the state of Virginia upon its ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Virginia is now the 38th state to have ratified the ERA, which meets the threshold for adoption of an amendment under Article V of the US Constitution…

“It is fitting that the 38th state [=¾ of 50 total states] has ratified the ERA in 2020, the 100th anniversary of both the 19th Amendment and the founding of the League of Women Voters,” says Sheila Denn, Co-Chair of the ERA Committee for the League of Women Voters of Wake County. “It is high time that women, who now make up more than half the workforce in the US, be treated equally under the law.”

Call it the Tom Paxton Amendment: Forty years ago Tom wrote Mary Got a New Job:

Mary got a new job workin’ on the line

Help to make the automobile

It wasn’t very long ‘til the job was goin’ fine

And she liked the way it made her feel

It gave her independence

To pull into the lot

And pull her heavy work clothes on

She liked the rush and clatter

She liked her new friends

And her favorite was a man named John

John was like a brother workin’ at her side

And they both came on the job the same day

Learned the job together

How the ropes were tied

Went together down to draw their first pay

Opened up his packet Johnny dropped his cash

Money was all over the floor

Mary saw the money

Saw to her surprise

Johnny had a whole lot more

And she said

"Who’s been matchin’ you sweat for sweat

Who’s been workin’ on the line

Who’s been earnin’ what she ain’t got yet

All I want is what’s mine

I’ve got eyes and hands and a back like yours

And I use ‘em hard the whole day

I stand here workin’ just as hard as you do

And I want my equal pay”

Johnny was a good man and Mary knew that

Taught to think of women as queens

Now here stood Mary in a yellow hard hat

And her broken down faded blue jeans

He liked her more than anybody he knew

And he was close to understanding why

She didn’t cuss or spit

She didn’t raise her voice

She just looked him straight in the eye

And she said

"Who’s been matchin’ you sweat for sweat

Who’s been workin’ on the line

Who’s been earnin’ what she ain’t got yet

All I want is what’s mine

I’ve got eyes and hands and a back like yours

And I use ‘em hard the whole day

I stand here workin’ just as hard as you do

And I want my equal pay

And I want my E. R. A. "(From The Paxton Report, 1980)

Guess where Tom lives? Alexandria, Virginia—so he can bust his buttons and sing out with pride; “Yes Virginia, There Is an E.R.A,” bringing to a full circle The Equal Rights Amendment first proposed in 1972— This will be the perfect capper to the Centennial of the 19th Amendment, which we passed in 1920, guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, there may be a catch—Catch 22. Five states have in the meantime voted to “rescind” their original approval—with changes in their own state legislatures—whether they can do that may be up to the courts to determine. Other states have imposed a 1982 deadline for passage which they claim has already expired—thus making Virginia’s recent vote moot—another matter which may throw it into the courts—since still other states claim there can be no such deadline. So one way or another it may be heading for the courts before Congress declares the 28th Amendment has passed. It may thus be premature to celebrate. But deep in my heart I do believe that We Have Overcome. I can’t imagine that the ERA will now be overturned.

P.S., With apologies to Francis P. Church, who wrote the New York Sun’s editorial reply to Virginia O’Hanlon on September 21,1897, who had written in to ask whether Santa really existed—“…Yes, VIRGINIA, There Is A Santa Claus….”

Tom Paxton will return to McCabe’s—Saturday, February 29 at 8:00pm., 3101 Pico Blvd , Santa Monica, CA 90405 310-828-4497 . I sure hope he sings “Mary Got a New Job!”

Ross Altman has a PhD in Modern Literature from SUNY-Binghamton (1973); belongs to Local 47 (AFM); heads up the Santa Monica Traditional Folk Music Club; writes for FolkWorks; Ross may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.