Barbara Flynn Currie

Illinois, which buried ERA decades ago, now its darling

In 1981, dozens of women descended upon the Illinois state Capitol with bread and other baked treats for legislators. On the annual "Stop-ERA Bread Day," their message: Men who approve the Equal Rights Amendment can no longer count on their wives to tend to hearth and home.

Their leader, a housewife from Alton named Phyllis Schlafly, railed against the ERA to guarantee equal rights for women, saying it would lead to taxpayer-funded abortions and forced military draft for women. Schlafly was credited with stopping ERA's momentum, which was all but declared dead when Illinois failed to ratify it in 1982, the year Congress had set as a deadline.

But decades later,...