Lou Guzzo, managing editor, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, to Sally Raleigh, lifestyle editor, on the Equal Rights Amendment (1972)

  • Posted 3/17/2009
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Lou Guzzo (1919-2013), managing editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in the 1970s, sent this memo to Sally Raleigh, editor of the lifestyle section, on March 27, 1972. Guzzo was concerned about the implications of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which had been recently passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. He worried that it would "promote a new breed of Amazons." Raleigh posted what came to be known as "the Amazon memo" on a bulletin board, where it remained for some time, a source of both irritation and amusement to the increasing number of women in the once male-only newsroom. The ERA, introduced as the 27th Amendment, failed to win ratification by the necessary 38 states. What Guzzo called "the old order" was shattered anyway, as more and more women demanded to be "saddled" with equal rights.

"The Amazon Memo"

"I think you should consider one or more in-depth pieces projecting the impact that the proposed 27th Amendment to the Federal Constitution will have.

"We are getting all kinds of opinions. On one side, observers are saying that the amendment will be deeply beneficial to all women, single or married, and that it will revolutionize the woman’s role in American society. This is generally the point of the liberation groups that fought so hard to get Congress to pass the amendment. On the other side, in the meantime, are an equally vociferous group of observers saying just the opposite. This faction believes the women have now left themselves open to untold and unexpected detriment. Will women now, in fact, lose some of their rights -- or at least their privileges -- because they will have equality with men if the required number of states ratify the amendment? What will happen from an ethical point of view to the woman’s position in society as a result of equality? What will happen from the social point of view? And what will happen in other fields, including business and industry, if women are in fact saddled with some of the ‘equality’ they think they have been denied? You may figure that my wording implies I am very much concerned. I am.

"I am very much worried that the pendulum will swing too far in the other direction and that we will promote a new breed of Amazons who will operate on the basis that the old order is deficient and no longer desirable. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that society must have a certain amount of discipline and order or it will perish under its own onslaught.

"What types of dangers are inherent in the 27th Amendment that we cannot now foresee? I would hope that you go to all shades of authority in this research. It will not do much good to ask the woman in the street what she thinks because I am sure she is not even aware yet of the implications. As a matter of fact, neither am I -- which is why I am suggesting this in the first place. I cannot project what the amendment will bring. Perhaps that is the best way to ask you to begin an in-depth study -- on the basis that no one really knows what to expect. Maybe it will all be guess work, but it will be fascinating, nonetheless."

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