Today I thought I would review a fantastic series, all about the Equal Rights Amendment and the feminist movement of the 1970s. ‘Mrs America’ is a recent series, available on BBC iPlayer, and it really made me think- helping me understand the feminist movement, and shed some light on those who worked to fight against the Amendment.
The Equal Rights Amendment, which was passed through government throughout the 1970s, would have issued certain key rights to women, and the series looks at both sides of this amendment.
This series centres around Phyllis Shlafly, a woman living in Illinois who mobilises the local women to fight against the Equal Rights Amendment. She was instrumental in stopping the ratification of the E.R.A., and she uses propaganda, clever rhetoric, and fear in order to mobilise the women of Illinois and stop this amendment from passing and maintain “family values”.
It’s clear that Schlafly is frustrated in her family and home life- and she uses this movement to bring her into the political limelight and maybe even score her a place in politics. The irony of this is not lost on her enemies.
The show also focuses on the feminist activists of the period, such as Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and Shirley Chisholm. These women fought for this amendment to get ratified in all the states, experiencing ups and downs as they tried to bring women’s issues to the forefront of the government’s agenda.
During the 1970s, the feminist movement had a lot of influence- and I learned a lot about American politics, and the role of women’s rights. It was so incredible to see actual footage of the feminist marches, events, and conferences from this period.
This was a fantastic series, full of inspirational characters and interesting moments. I thought it was a brilliant way of portraying the controversial E.R.A. and I loved that ‘Mrs America’ showed both sides of the fight. It portrayed the women of Illinois who rallied many women to their side, thinking they were defending women’s rights in the home- as well as the women of the feminist movement, who worked tirelessly to get women the equal rights they deserved.
But the thing I loved the most about ‘Mrs America’ was how it made me think. It made me consider the feminist movement in a new light, and understand differing views to my own.
Below are 4 ways ‘Mrs America’ made me think- about my own views, about feminism, and about politics of the 1970s.
I learned about the “Stop E.R.A.” movement
Before I watched this series, I didn’t know anything about the Stop E.R.A. movement- and I especially didn’t realise the large role they played in stopping the E.R.A. from passing in all the states.
The Stop E.R.A. movement was led by Shlafly, and she manages to mobilise the women of Illinois, using propaganda to strike fear in the homemakers of the area and stop the E.R.A. from being ratified in the states.
I thought it was incredible the way that Shlafly managed to persuade and lobby the women of Illinois (and eventually other states), and I don’t think I ever before considered the side of those women who fought against the E.R.A.
I realised the power of women
Whether you agree with the feminist movement or with Stop E.R.A., the immense power of both sides of the movement is clear. In fact, the “Stop E.R.A.” movement really shows what can happen when women are mobilised- whether out of fear or patriotism or personal reasons- towards one common cause.
This series also shows how the women of the feminist movement worked tirelessly to get politicians to take their rights seriously- and I thought it was very upsetting to see these figures used and tricked and talked over again and again.
There will always be in-fighting
I think this series really showed that even when everyone is fighting for the same, common cause- there will always be in-fighting.
In the feminist movement, there were questions of which subject should be debated. Some activists wanted to focus on abortion, some wanted to get rights for mothers, and some wanted equal pay. And there were clear divides between different races in the feminist movement- showing that the movement of the 1970s was not inclusive, and reiterating the fact that every group has its divides and problems.
The same was true for the Stop E.R.A. movement, with the women slowly realising they had different priorities, and perhaps Schlafly’s actions were not in the best interest of the group. Schlafly becomes more and more militant in her beliefs as the show progresses- and it seems she will do anything to achieve them.
Fear is a strong emotion
‘Mrs America’ really made me think about fear- and how it can be an incredible way to encourage support. Schlafly encourages the women of Illinois to think that, should the E.R.A. be passed, women will be sent off to war, they will lose their husbands, and they’ll be forced into the workplace.
All these misconceptions help Schlafly mobilise these women, and the fear of change really is a big factor in the Stop E.R.A. movement.
Overall, I loved this show. I thought it was amazing to see both sides of the fight- and while I don’t agree with the Stop E.R.A. movement and its values, it was interesting to see just how many women used their voice to speak against the E.R.A.- and as it has never been ratified in all the states, they clearly held a lot of power.
In what ways did Mrs America made you think? Have you watched this series? What’s your favourite, inspirational series at the moment?
Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
Happy reading x
Picture credits here