All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Andrew S Baer

Advisory Committee Members

John E Van Sant

Jonathan Wiesen

Natasha Zaretsky

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


This thesis argues that the struggle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Birmingham, Alabama, rarely focused on the amendment’s legal merits, but rather became a debate about the nature and validity of gender roles. Generally, opponents of the ERA set the terms of the debate and connected the seemingly benign concept of legal equality between men and women with controversial issues like the conscription of women into the military, women’s freedom from the workplace and supposed right to the economic support of their husbands, religious interpretations of gender roles, and abortion. The struggle was primarily one between middle-class white women, as both supporters and opponents alienated non-white and working-class women due to their inability to understand how race and class influence the experience of gender. Supporters ended up losing the fight at both the state and national levels, but their efforts mobilized women in support of progressive causes and changed Americans’ conception and performance of gender roles.