To celebrate Women’s History Month, the American Library hosted a talk on 8 March by Professor Emma Long from the University of East Anglia, who spoke to an engaged and appreciative audience about the women justices of the United States Supreme Court. You can read all about it in fellow Library Scholar Lauren Cortese’s blog post.
Professor Long highlighted a few books about the justices that are available to check out from the Library, shown at bottom. If you’re interested in the Supreme Court and the American legal system, we have additional titles, so pay us a visit and ask one of our knowledgeable librarians to assist you.
There are a number of pressing issues facing the nation when it comes to women’s rights. One is the pending Supreme Court case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which could overturn the Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, upholding a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and control over her own reproductive decisions. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights: ‘The right to safe and legal abortion is a fundamental human right protected under numerous international and regional human rights treaties and national-level constitutions around the world.’ [UPDATE: On 24 June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, holding that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion, in a case that has troubling implications for due process protections in America. The text of the decision can be found here. I recommend reading the dissent by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.]
There is also the necessity of confirming President Biden’s nominee to fill the vacancy left by the announced retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is a highly qualified candidate and would be the Court’s first Black female justice, not to mention being from this writer’s hometown of Miami, Florida. I venture to predict that despite the political sideshow surrounding Judge Jackson’s nomination, Congress will do the right thing in confirming her. [UPDATE: On 7 April 2022, a bipartisan group of Senators confirmed Judge Jackson’s nomination as the 116th Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. She was sworn in and took her seat on 30 June.]
There is another, perhaps surprisingly, unresolved issue: the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution, guaranteeing equal rights for women. First drafted in 1923 by leaders of the suffrage movement and finally taken up by Congress in 1972, the ERA requires the ratification of three-quarters, or 38 of the 50 states. Virginia became the 38th state to ratify it in 2020. However, according to the Brennan Center for Justice: ‘The ratification deadlines that Congress set after it approved the amendment have lapsed, and five states have acted to rescind their prior approval.’
The resolution to this legal nail-biter rests on the issues of whether Congress can waive the time bar (a procedural limitation not mandated by the Constitution) and whether states are permitted to rescind their ratifications. The 50.8% of ‘female persons’ who make up the US population, according the 2020 US census, await the answer. It’s been nearly a century since the ERA was first put forward by suffragists. I have no doubt that even if it eludes passage this time around, it will eventually prevail.
The text of the ERA reads: ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.’ If ratified, it will be the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution.
I’ll close by noting that all opinions expressed in this post are those of the writer, and do not represent the position of the American Library, which is one of neutrality.
–post by Suzanne Solomon
 Gender equality is guaranteed under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, in great part due to the brilliant legal strategy of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who would go on to become the Court’s second woman and first Jewish female Justice.