With dozens of local women business leaders gathered Friday in Santa Monica for International Women's Day and National Women's History month, it was the perfect day for Cecilia Rosenthal to don a worn-in "I < ♥ ERA!" t-shirt.
The Santa Monica resident said she bought the white shirt decades ago. On Friday morning it was embellished with big pins around the collar, "Keep Abortion Legal," one read.
But Rosenthal said it seemed none of the people, mostly young and middle-aged women, who gathered at The Market for a celebration hosted by the city and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce knew what E.R.A was.
"Everybody keeps saying, 'What's ERA?'," she said. "I'm shocked."
The Equal Rights Amendment—known as the E.R.A—proposed banning discrimination based on sex. It was passed by Congress in 1972 but fell short of ratification.
Driving its passage was the National Organization for Women, the feminist group that advocated for abortion rights and against violence against women. Rosenthal said she worshipped NOW's first president and one of its founders, Betty Friedan.
Rosenthal said she cried reading The Feminine Mystique, Friedan's provocative manifesto credited with sparking the second wave of feminism in the United States. As Rosenthal read it, she said, "I kept thinking, 'this is me, this is me!'"