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Athenaeum Symposium: Inspiring Words on the Equal Rights Amendment

By: Shabnam Qureshi

The dynamic lecture on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) held in the Globe Hall on Thursday March 28, 2013 was both motivating and empowering. The symposium featured guest speaker Carolyn Cook, activist for the passage of the ERA, who presented the history of the amendment since it was first introduced by activist Alice Paul ninety years ago. Carolyn Cook not only discussed the history of the ERA, but also its current status in the Congress and the states.

Right around 7 p.m., Globe Hall began to fill up with professors, students, and other visitors who all came to watch guest speaker Carolyn Cook present the history and future of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Cook, who attended Montgomery College’s Rockville campus in the 1980s, was proud to host and enlighten the students and visitors who attended the event. She started off by stating her belief that there is a structural flaw in our society that needs to be fixed. That structural flaw is that women’s rights are still being ignored and postponed, even in the 21st century. Cook spoke with an empowering voice and reached out to the women in the audience, pleading with them to “get off the sidelines and learn our history.” She delivered the powerful message that the battle for women’s rights cannot be fought from the sidelines, and should not be treated as a spectator sport.

Cook mentioned her ideas about The Butterfly Effect, which is meant to help people everywhere break with tradition. The Butterfly Effect is based off the scientific theory that a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.

Metaphorically, Cook explained, a small thing can make a big impact.  She articulated to the audience that even the smallest step taken towards passing the ERA can result in a huge difference. Most people, she explained, do not deviate from custom because it is comfortable and familiar, but sometimes change is for the better and that it is necessary to “break with tradition.”

Cook has made a career and lifestyle out of working on the ERA. In 2011, she wrote a 10 page proposal which was reviewed by Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. She has received motivation from women such as Alice Paul, Rosa Parks, and her very own mother, who was present in the audience. Cook wrapped up her presentation by stating that women’s equality is a journey, and that it cannot be achieved overnight. She urged the oncoming generations of both men and women to take the torch, and continue to fight for women’s rights. There can be no human rights without women’s rights.

Join the ERA 2015 campaign! Information is available online at

About The Globe (124 Articles)
We are the student newspaper for Montgomery College, Germantown Campus.

1 Comment on Athenaeum Symposium: Inspiring Words on the Equal Rights Amendment

  1. faizaan Sayed // April 11, 2013 at 2:33 pm // Reply

    Very informative and very well written article. I found it very interesting. Thank you Ms. Qureshi

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