ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Equal Rights Amendment is dead in 1982, but three women who fasted 37 days to urge its ratification say the battle for women's rights will continue 'outside the system that is set up to defeat us.'
The women started fasting at the Illinois Statehouse May 18. They ate nothing until Thursday, just hours after a legislative subcommittee blocked a vote on the ERA and killed any chance of ratification by the June 30 deadline.
Despite the demise of ERA, one of the hunger strikers, Sonia Johnson, described the fast as successful, saying it 'politicized' women and 'revolutionized this society.'
'This (defeat) has taught us disillusionment. We have no illusions that men are ever going to represent us in the legislatures of this country.
'We must begin working outside the system that is set up to defeat us. There are going to be a greater number of confrontations. We are going to be demanding, never again begging, never again crawling on our knees. We're going to take what is ours.'
Ms. Johnson made the comments Thursday during a news conference at National Airport. She and fellow hunger strikers Sister Maureen Fiedler, of Mt. Rainier, Md., and Mary Barnes, of Raleigh, N.C., will attend a National Organization of Women rally June 30.
About 50 ERA supporters greeted them, chanting 'ERA will not go away' and 'Reagan remember, we'll get you in November.'
Sister Fiedler bitterly denounced the Reagan administration's opposition to ERA, and said ERA's defeat had 'stiffened the backs of the women in this country.'
'It's time to tell (Vice President George) Bush and Reagan and those of their ilk, who put profit and greed over a desire for justice that they had better seek other employment,' Sister Fiedler said.
'It's gratifying to return to Washington because herein resides Ronald Reagan, who is the greatest enemy of women and women's rights in this country.'
Since Congress passed the ERA in 1972, it has gained ratification in 35 states, three short of the number required to make it part of the Constitution.
U.S Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo., and Sens. Paul Tsongas, D-Mass., and Bob Packwood, R-Ore., have said they will introduce new versions of the ERA July 14.
Sister Fiedler, however, said she did not expect any action on a new ERA this year, and said she was more concerned with an attempt by the administration to introduce its own version.
'Reagan probably will try to recoup some kind of public relations victory. That's what we'll have to watch out for.'