Why I Gave to Send Activists to Seneca Falls

Speaking at a June 30, 1982 Rally in Michigan


Dear NOW Members and Friends,

One of the first issues I worked on when I joined NOW was the ERA. I’ve always enjoyed reading legal writing, and that mindset tends to makes me super-unpopular at parties. But the ERA and it’s promise of equality for women really captivated me and I wanted to see it ratified.

I worked in Illinois on the ERA Countdown Campaign for six months. Unfortunately, despite my work and all the work of thousands of activists all over the country, when June 30,1982 came and went, we were still three states short of the 38 required for ratification. Forty years later, we’re still working – and are very very close.

But what I want to tell you about is what that experience as a younger activist did for me forty years ago. I hope it will persuade you to see why your contribution to Maryland NOW to send ERA activists in 2023 to Seneca Falls is so very important for the newest generation of women’s rights activists.

As a volunteer in the Countdown Campaign, I had to learn to debate right wing women who said I’d never be able to collect Social Security if the ERA was ratified, and to learn to speak in public. I had to learn to lead meetings, and help others learn to lobby, frame a letter to their member of their legislature, and convince supporters to get outside their comfort zones and do things to support a political cause that they never dreamed they would be doing.

These experiences framed my career and helped me develop extensive expertise in grassroots organizing and organizational development. I traveled all over the US helping NOW activists improve their chapter’s outreach and success in their communities. And I still had to keep forcing myself to speak in public. But here I am today, still at it.

All of this is happening to the young women who are part of GenerationRatify and are working to get the ERA into our Constitution. They want this life – the life of a person who loves their community and their country and wants it to be better. They want to see our Founding Mothers’ dreams become a reality. They are willing to keep working to see it happen.

These women need your help. They are going to Seneca Falls, perhaps riding with other women in a car for seven hours, perhaps taking turns as they drive all night to get there, sleeping on futons, and eating energy bars. They are excited, and if you meet them in the grocery store, they will start telling you why we still need the ERA. They are our tickets to a better world.

Always for equality,

Barbara Hays
Maryland NOW President

Click here for our ERA/Seneca Falls Donate Page

UPDATE:  In the months since I wrote this – thanks to your donations – we were able to help a number of young feminists get to Seneca Falls NY for this incredible event. Since then, they have returned to Maryland to continue their activism:  through the MD NOW ERA Task Force and other groups they have heped start, and several have become active in Maryland NOW and are helping us bring in younger members in our high school groups. They are also working on other issue task forces through Maryland NOW, for example on our Abortion Rights Task Force organizing our work toward passage of the Abortion Amendment ballot measure in November.. Please earmark donations to our Grow Young Feminists Fund as we are able to provide funds for their work in the women’s movement! We need them in order to continue the work we’ve done thus far in our lives.

Thanks very much,