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Spotlight on History

Fight for Women’s Rights

Beth George hosting Louisiana: The State We're In in 1977


In honor of Women’s History Month in March, the LDMA is taking a look back at the fight for women’s rights in Louisiana.  On August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment was officially adopted, granting women the right to vote in the United States.  While a major milestone, many women in Louisiana found other issues to fight for in the 20th century, including the repeal of the head and master law and the attempted ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Watch coverage from LPB’s Louisiana: The State We’re In on these issues from the 1970s and 1980s, as well as a recent report on the state of women’s rights in Louisiana.  


Women's Suffrage


Women’s Suffrage (1920)

In this clip from LPB’s Louisiana: A History, learn more about the efforts of New Orleans suffragists in helping women gain the right to vote in 1920. 


Head and Master Law Debate 1977


Head and Master Law (1977)

Watch LPB’s first report on the attempted repeal of the nation’s oldest Head and Master Law, which allowed a husband to make community property decisions without his wife’s consent.



Phyllis Schlafly discussing her opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment


Equal Rights Amendment (1977)

See LPB’s first report on the Equal Rights Amendment debate in Louisiana, including a speech by national ERA opponent Phyllis Schlafly.



Selina Martin on her fight against the head and master law


Head and Master Law (1978)

View a report on Selina Martin’s case challenging the constitutionality of Louisiana’s head and master law before the United States Supreme Court.



Woman discussing new community property law


New Community Property Law (1978)

Watch a report on the community property law for married couples that took effect in 1980 and replaced the head and master law.



Fran Bussie, ERA proponent


Equal Rights Amendment Debate (1979)

See a report on the heated debate and defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment in the Louisiana Legislature.



Head and Master Law Panel Discussion


Head and Master Law Panel Discussion (1979)

View interviews with two Louisiana women impacted by the head and master law, as well as Sylvia Roberts, the general counsel for the NOW Legal Defense Fund.



ERA is Dead Sign


Defeat of the ERA (1982)

Watch a report on the final defeat of the equal rights amendment in the Louisiana Legislature before the ratification deadline enacted by Congress.



State Representative Pat Smith on women's rights


Women’s Rights Survey (2019)

See a panel discussion on the findings of a nationwide survey ranking Louisiana as the worst state for women’s rights.




To see more stories, check out the complete Women’s History topic.