The feminist activists of the 1960s, '70s and early '80s weren't the first to push for an Equal Rights Amendment. Suffragist leader Alice Paul, second from right, fought hard to pass the 19th Amendment -- which earned women the right to vote in 1920. She drafted the first ERA and introduced it to Congress in 1923.
In 1972, the House and Senate passed the ERA by the necessary two-thirds votes before sending it to state legislatures for ratification. Three-quarters of the states needed to ratify it, but the ERA fell three states short by its 1982 deadline. Among those where it failed was Florida, where supporters voiced their disapproval after the state Senate voted 22-16 against the ERA in June 1982.
Gloria Steinem, arguably the most recognized name and face in feminist activism, was among the key forces behind the ERA effort in the '70s and '80s. Although it wasn't ratified, most men and women were pro-ERA, Steinem says. She recently took a break from writing her latest book to join a gathering in support of the new ERA Coalition and celebrate the release of "Equal Means Equal," written by coalition founder and director Jessica Neuwirth.
Women's rights activist, poet and writer Robin Morgan -- seen here during a women's liberation conference in New York in 1970 -- was also among the crowd at the fundraiser and book launch at Manhattan's Yale Club. Morgan's 1970 anthology, "Sisterhood Is Powerful," helped galvanize a movement.
President Richard Nixon endorsed the ERA after it was adopted by both houses of Congress in 1972. Thirty-five of the needed 38 states ratified the ERA by its 1982 deadline. The latest efforts to revive the ERA have included legislation that would lift the deadline or start the ratification process from scratch.
The face of ERA opposition during the last big go-round was Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative activist who founded the Eagle Forum. Now 90, she says the ERA is "dumb and offensive" and that the new push for it is "a colossal waste of time." Schlafly, seen in this 1975 photo, once warned that the ERA would lead to same-sex marriage and women being drafted into combat. She also said it It would threaten families -- an argument she still makes.
Schlafly led protests against the ERA, including this one at the White House in 1977. The group, about 200 strong, was protesting then-first lady Rosalyn Carter's campaign for the ERA. Amendment supporters like Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, say their real enemy was never Schlafly, but big business and insurance companies.
Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy speaks at an ERA fundraising dinner in Washington in 1980. Kennedy spent more than three decades as a champion for the amendment in Congress.
Eleanor Smeal, then-president of the National Organization for Women, left, and first lady Betty Ford attend an ERA rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1981.
From left, Rep. Gwen Moore, Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Carolyn Maloney hold a news conference in 2010 outside the U.S. Capitol to call for passage of the ERA. The amendment has been introduced in nearly every session of Congress since 1923.
ERA supporters like to quote U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who told California Lawyer in a January 2011 issue: "Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't."
Last April, Scalia appeared at the National Press Club beside his judicial polar opposite -- and friend -- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The two were asked how they would amend the Constitution, if they could. Ginsburg, seen here at an annual Women's History Month event at the U.S. Capitol in March, didn't hesitate: "If I could choose an amendment to add to this Constitution, it would be the Equal Rights Amendment," she said.