Abigail Adams hung out her wash there and last night in the East Room of the White House President Carter aired what Liz Carpenter called "the dirty linen of ERA opponents."
"There's something historic about that," Carpenter, who is co-chair of ERA-America, told columinist Erma Bombeck. "We're all Abigail's granddaughters. She said it would foment a revolution if they didn't write us into the Constitution."
Carpenter and Bombeck were among the nearly 500 guests, many of them men, invited by president and Mrs. Carter to a reception climaxing a "summit" meeting earlier in the day on ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
"One of the most important responsibilities I have is to make sure ancient discriminations in our nation are eliminated," Carter told members of his advisory committee for women in an afternoon session.
Assuring them they had "a full partner here in the Oval Office." Carter said, "We intend to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed in this country in 1980."
Last night, he shared the spotlight with Rosalynn Carter; Joan Mondale; Lady Bird Johnson; Laynda Johnson Robb, who is chairperson of his advisory committee: daughter-in-law Judy Carter; Liz Carpenter and Ellie peterson, co-chairs of ERA America, and five members of the junior ERA brigade: Daughter Amy Carter, granddaughter Sarah Carter and Lucinda, Catherine and Jennifer Robb.
"Welcome to the White House which belongs to the people," Rosalynn Carter said in introducing the president, "and we are reminded that more than half of it belongs to women."
Almost everybody was attentive when the president said, "We've got to analyze where crucial votes are, how to approach members of houses and senates (in the 15 unratified states), assess the problems, divide up responsibilities and organize our force effectively. The only way to win is with 3 tight, well-knit organization."
The one inattentive guest. 10-month-old Sarah, received a presidential pardon and Amy Carter carried her upstairs to bed.
Yesterday morning, the ERA subcommittee of the president's advistory committee heard testimony by pro-ERA leaders from 10 unratified states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia. Submitting written testimony were Arizona, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah.
Last night several who testified voiced cautious optimism on the outlook for passage.
Illinois State Rep. Giddy Dyer said that once Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne, a Democrat, and Gov. James Thompson, a Republican, solidify their positions and begin calling in their party chips, passage next year might be possible Both politicians have indicated they support it.
Missouri State Rep. Sue Shear said ERA passed the Missouri house once but has yet to make it in the state senate. "There's a lot of commitment coming, we think, from both business and labor."
Rep. Pat Schroeder of Colorado, where ERA passed in 1972 and has since servived two recision attempts, said Carter's commitment to help get it ratified is indicative of how "everybody finally realizes how serious it is, that time is running out and we've got to get the act together.'
Liz Carpenter said she did not see how anybody running for president could be against it.
"So I hope people will really pin to the wall those candidates who are running because seven presidents have been for it and we want to know who's cut there trying to turn back the clock."
Still three states sky of ratification, ERA's passage will be a "massive task." Carter told his advisory committee in the Oval Office season.
"He said he'd do whatever needs to be done after we get the facts together and digest all the information we got today," said Judy Carter.
"The president said he has to know specifically who is holding ERA up," Judy Carter continued. "There are no universal truths; each state has its own specific things and you have to be sensitive to those. Sure, one argument is that here's the federal government coming in and twisting arms, so you have to be careful what kind of ammunition you give the opponents."
Rep. Margaret Heckler (R-Mass.) thought Carter's commitment was the strongest yet.
"The Carters have always been supportive," she said, "but there's a bottom-line mentality that's taking over in everything the White House is doing these days. That's what ERA needs for passage."
In the crowd were Coretta King, Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) and his wife Antoinette, Sen. Charles Percy (R-iii.), Phyllis George Brown, Rep. Robert Drinan (R-Mass.), actreses Joyce DeWitt and Barbara Feldon and actor Theodor Bikel.
Some, like Lady Bird Johnson, wore large pink buttons proclaiming: "I'm a Homemaker for ERA." As for active involvement, Johnson said the belongs" to my daughter and her time."