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A Report on the Legal Status of Homemakers in Virginia, 1977


Materials in the Library of Virginia’s collections contain historical terms, phrases, and images that are offensive to modern readers. These include demeaning and dehumanizing references to race, ethnicity, and nationality; enslaved or free status; physical and mental ability; and gender and sexual orientation. 


In January 1975, the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year was a presidential commission established by President Gerald Ford. The purpose of the commission was to work in conjunction with the International Women’s Year proposed by the United Nations in 1972. Congress extended the work of the commission in 1977 with the election of President Jimmy Carter. Both Ford and Carter having different agendas with the exception of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as both presidents wished to see passed and ratified by congress. The commission planned and supported the National Women's Conference of 1977 in which 2000 delegates met to work on 26 resolutions of women’s rights which included: the ERA, reproductive rights, sexual orientation, education reform, child care funding, minority rights, and issues related to families. 

The National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year published a report in 1977 in which they reviewed state laws. The state laws chosen to represent Virginia concerned the rights of married women, women who were widowed, and those that were divorced. The commission was specifically interested in the rights of women who fell into these categories who did not work outside of the home. The report covered such issues as property ownership of married, widowed, and divorced women as well as domestic violence, and divorce settlements.  It is important to note that although the ERA was a driving force in the work of the commission and much was accomplished in bringing awareness to women’s rights issues, the ERA has yet to be ratified by congress. 

Citation: Crouch, Richard E. The Legal Status of Homemakers in Virginia. Washington: National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year, Homemakers Committee: United States Government Printing Office, 1977, Y 3.W 84:9/47, Library of Virginia.


VS.I, VS.9, USII.1, USII.8, USII.9, VUS.1, VUS.15

Suggested Questions

Preview Activity

Scan It: Look at the document and scan it. Identify any words or phases that stand out. Why do you think those words or phrases stood out to you? Whay do they tell you about the topic of the document?

Post Activities

Analyze: What impression does this short excerpt give you about gender equality issues in Virginia in 1977? Why do you think the commission chose to focus on issues related to married, divorced, widowed women? 

Up for Debate: The ERA has yet to ratified by congress. Write a paragraph in which you express whether or not you support the ratification of the ERA. Be sure to include specific reasons and explanations for your choice. Be prepared to share your paragraph with the class or in small groups.