Ohio History Journal

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Sisterhood, Inc.: The Status of Women

Commission Movement and the Rise of

Feminist Coalition Politics in Ohio,





Phyllis Schlafly's STOP ERA organization campaigned vigorously against

ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Ohio during the early

1970s. Armed with loaves of bread tied with pink ribbons, bus loads of

STOP ERA supporters came to the state capitol in Columbus to lobby

against the Amendment when the Ohio House of Representatives' State

Government Committee convened public hearings on the ERA on February

14, 1973.1 The Ohio Coalition for ERA, a statewide alliance of nascent fem-

inist groups and mainstream religious, civic, and professional women's orga-

nizations, joined the pre-hearing "trinket war" by inviting the Housewives for

ERA group to present a planter replete with Ohio statehood symbols to each

legislator.2 Mary Miller Young, former president of the Ohio Coalition for

ERA, recalls that the young homemakers appeared at the Statehouse in jeans

only to be told by older women in the ERA coalition to come back in

dresses.  The younger women accepted the advice and returned to the

Statehouse clad in borrowed frocks. Miller Young credits the collaboration

across generations within the pro-ERA movement-made up of women

"representing all walks of life"-for making the ERA a mainstream political

goal, which contributed to its ratification in Ohio in 1974 in spite of STOP

ERA's intensive lobbying effort.3

This essay explains how the sixty-three year old Miller Young, chairman of

the Columbus YWCA's Public Affairs Committee, and her cohorts from

other civic, religious, and service organizations aligned with younger women

inspired by women's liberation to form a coalition group across age, class,

race, and partisan lines.4 Not since the turn-of-the-century suffrage movement


Kathleen Laughlin is Assistant Professor of History and Women's Studies at Metropolitan

State University, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. Part of this research was first presented at

the Ohio Academy of History Spring Meeting, April 21-22, 1995. The author wishes to thank

Professor Susan M. Hartmann for her helpful comments throughout this project.


1. Mary Miller Young telephone conversation with the author March 8, 1996.

2. Columbus Dispatch, February 21, 1973.

3. Mary Miller Young telephone conversation with the author March 8, 1996.

4. This essay adheres to the language of the time period.