Cornelia Elizabeth Pinchot

Cornelia Elizabeth Pinchot

Known as Leila to her friends, Ms. Pinchot was an outspoken activist, reformer and suffragist. Born in 1881 in Newport, Rhode Island, to a wealthy and politically connected family. In 1914 she married Gifford Pinchot, father of the American Conservation Movement and Governor of Pennsylvania. They lived in Milford, PA.

She and her husband were advocates for conservation and working conditions for laborers. She campaigned for her husband as a Senate candidate and later for the governorship. In 1928 she made her own bid for a seat in Congress losing to incumbent Louis McFadden. Even after her loss, Leila continued to fight for women’s rights, unionists and conservation issues.

As the first lady of Pennsylvania, Ms. Pinchot worked diligently to impact issues for social change. She was a contemporary of Eleanor Roosevelt. The two women had attended the same dance school as children and had dined together in the Governor’s home as well as in Washington DC.

Teddy Roosevelt was also a friend to Leila and often sought her opinion and advice.

She made a second attempt as the Republican candidate to run for office and was again defeated by McFadden.

Cornelia fought hard for women’s rights. She marched in suffrage parades and advocated for women to not only vote but take an interest in issues and contribute to campaigns.  She served as a delegate to the United Nations Scientific Conference of the Conservation and Utilization of Natural Resources in 1949.

Her larger-than-life personality, sharp intelligence, slight frame, brilliant red hair and bright blue eyes made her a force of influence. She pushed boundaries for the working class, the environment and most notably, for women. She died in Washington DC in 1960.

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was passed by Congress in 1972 and required thirty-eight states to ratify. At the time, only thirty-five states managed to ratify. The timeline was extended but no additional states were added to the total. Then, in 2017 Nevada ratified followed by Illinois bringing the total to thirty-seven of the thirty-eight states needed. In 2020 Virginia became the thirty-eighth state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

A bill to extend the deadline was passed in the House of Representatives. It now sits in the Senate Judiciary committee.

The first equal rights bill was introduced in 1923 co-sponsored by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman. One hundred years in the making. Isn’t it time to make Equal Rights the 28th Amendment?

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