Erin M. Kempker
is an associate professor of history at Mississippi University for Women and the author of Big Sister: Feminism, Conservatism and Conspiracy in the Heartland
(University of Illinois, 2018). The author examines how 1970s right-wing women activists in the state of Indiana combined earlier political conspiracy theories, Cold War anti-communism and anti-ERA sentiment to cast feminism as a threat to American democracy, free enterprise, and the family. Conservative women’s groups in the mid-West, such as Minute Women and Pro America, rallied against the Equal Right Amendment at a critical moment for feminism. The strategy of the ERA Coordinating Committee (HERA), a coalition of twelve liberal organizations, was of low-key bi-partisan lobbying of legislators that marginalizing radical feminists. The soft-sale approach of Hoosier feminists threatened to kill the ERA as it faced militant right-wing opposition. Kempker examines the motivations and organizational strategies of right-wing women and the problems feminist encountered in promoting ERA as a matter of simple justice and failing to directly counter the conservative critiques. Big Sister
is a study of both conservative strategies that led to the rightward move of the Republican Party in the 1980s and the failings of feminists in delaying the ultimate passage of ERA in Indiana offering lessons for activist today.
Lilian Calles Barger, www.lilianbarger.com, is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her recent book is entitled
The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology (Oxford University Press, 2018).