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Racists for Feminism! The Odd History of the Civil Rights Bill
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext) - Washington, D.C.
Author: Malanowski, Jamie
Date: Feb 6, 1994
Start Page: c.05
Section: OUTLOOK

In the end, both the amendment and the bill passed; the late addition would become one of the primary legal bases for fighting discrimination based on gender in succeeding decades. But equality of the sexes wasn't really what the man who proposed the amendment had in mind. No, Rep. Howard Smith, a Virginia Democrat, was, like many of the amendment's supporters, an ardent segregationist bent on defeating the expressed purpose of the bill: establishing civil rights for African Americans.

George William Andrews of Alabama, another Democrat, concurred. "Unless this amendment is adopted, the white women of this country would be drastically discriminated against in favor of a Negro woman." Mendel Rivers of South Carolina also agreed. "I rise in support of the amendment ... making it possible for the white Christian woman to receive the same consideration for employment as the colored woman. It is incredible to me that the authors of this monstrosity, whomever they are, would deprive the white women of mostly Anglo-Saxon or Christian heritage equal opportunity before her employer. I know Congress will not be party to such evil."

With confusion sufficiently sowed, a vote was held. The odd coalition of racists and proto-feminists prevailed, 168 to 133, and the prohibition against discrimination on account of sex then became part of the proposed bill. When the vote on the entire measure was taken, Smith and all the other southerners who had supported the sexual discrimination amendment voted no. Still, the bill was passed by the House 290-130, a notably wider margin than the touchy sexual discrimination amendment.

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