Monday, November 8, 2004
Today is the birthday of Aloha Pearl Taylor Brown Eagles, who was born in 1916 in Duluth. She grew up in Crosby, MN, trained as a nurse after graduating, attended the U of M for a year, and graduated from Hibbing Junior College in 1936.
Aloha and her husband, Donald, moved to Fargo in 1942, where they raised two sons. In 1967, she campaigned as a Republican for District 21 and was elected to the North Dakota Legislative Assembly. She served for eighteen years, leaving in 1985.
Eagles represents another example of how the North Dakota Republican and Democrat platforms exchanged places during the 20th Century. As a Republican, Eagles fought hard for women’s rights. She introduced House Bill 319, which called for legalized abortion in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother’s health was in danger. The bill also allowed for abortion if the unborn child had serious physical or mental defects.
This was in 1969, four years before the Roe vs. Wade decision. Because of her views, Eagles became the target of death threats and hate mail, and state troopers had to be temporarily assigned to protect her. The bill failed in the House by a vote of 52-42. When she introduced a similar bill in 1971, it was defeated by an even wider margin of 85-15.
In 1973, Eagles introduced a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment for women; the ERA was originally presented to Congress fifty years earlier by Susan B. Anthony’s nephew. His bill got stuck in the Judiciary Committee, which was chaired by New York Representative Emanuel Celler, a strong opponent of equal rights for women. Attempts to push the bill out of the Committee were unsuccessful until 1970, when it finally went before Congress. That August, it was approved, and two years later, the Senate also approved it.
The ERA had to be ratified by three-fourths of the states to become law. Hawaii was the first to ratify it; it took them only a half hour. Within the next four years, 33 of the required 38 states followed suit and ratified the amendment.
In North Dakota, Aloha Eagles’ attempt to ratify the bill failed by one vote. Women representing the YWCA, the League of Women Voters, the ND Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, and others launched an immense lobbying and informational campaign. Collectively, they were the Coordinating Council for the Equal Rights Amendment or CCERA. CCERA’s efforts resulted in the amendment being ratified in February 1975.
It was almost three years before another state ratified the ERA. The deadline was moved from early 1979 to mid-1982, but no other states stepped up; the bill died just three states short of ratification.
Other bills that Aloha Eagles sponsored included requirements for children to receive immunizations before starting school. She also fought for a woman’s prison facility. Eagles was also known for her efforts to curb youth drug and alcohol abuse, including drafting a bill to prohibit the sale of volatile solvents used for “glue sniffing.”
Aloha Eagles was named North Dakota Woman of the Year in 1973 and Woman of the Year in Government in Fargo in 1976, the same year UND presented her with their Law Woman’s Award. Eagles died in 1992, at age 75.
Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm