This is my diary entry from Friday, May 14, 1982. It is the opening chapter of my book, The Hungry Heart, which is the actual diary of my 40 days in Springfield, Illinois. Phyllis and Ellie, NOW v Eagles; Equality was on the line and still is. Many of us who are working on the election of the first woman president are hoping that it will renew a bright light on Constitutional equality. I mean after all, the president should be included in the US Constitution.
La igualdad de los derechos bajo ley no sera negada ni sera abreviada por los Estados Unidos o por cualquier estado a causa de sexo.
Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
MAY 14, 1982
This is something I want so much, I am willing to die for it. The fact that I want it for all women for all time makes it profound and suffocating. I feel like I am being crushed inside a storm of feelings, fears and certainty. I need some relief. I know this is the right thing to do. Food, cigarettes, privacy, pets, home and family -- take it. I want this more.
All I did was answer the phone. It sounded like every other ring that had called me to the phone. It rang in early May. It was Sonia Johnson calling. We had met in the Fall when she came to my bookstore to sign her book, “From Housewife to Heretic.” We talked of the deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment, July 1, and promised one another that no matter what we did we would do it together. "We are going to fast for the ERA," Sonia calmly explained to me. "We are going to go to Illinois, sit in the Springfield rotunda, live on water only and win the ERA."
I met Dina at the Long Beach airport at 8 A.M. I think we are doing awfully well considering we both stopped smoking just four days ago. Maybe in the face of not eating, not smoking seems negligible. At least it seems to be just another task on my ToDo list. With an extra hour before the flight, we had breakfast. It was the first in the continuing series of meals we ate today. Eggs, Pancakes, Toast, O.J., Coffee. We ate as if there is no tomorrow.
The flight to Chicago was uneventful but we missed the connecting flight to Springfield. It took three attempts at stand-by to actually make it. The good news is that we were able to eat another meal; packing it away like chipmunks in Fall.
A thoughtful woman named Marion picked us up. She is studying to be a Methodist minister. She made the mistake of asking us if there was anything we wanted to do before we went to the meeting place. Fried Shrimp, Baked potatoes, Blue cheese salad, Pie, Coffee.
The mystery of where we are going to stay is solved. We have permission to stay at Kumler Methodist Church for two weeks. We are going to sleep on the floor of the Sunday School classrooms. The desks and chairs are itsy bitsy. The bathroom is down right comical as the sinks and toilets are all scaled down. The really bad news is that there are no showers. I am really taken back about no showers. It is muggy May in Southern Illinois.
The classrooms are stifling. I guess they only open the windows on Sunday mornings. The walls are covered with posters of Jesus. This is not the Jesus I love. This one is fair skinned, sandy hair, manicured hands, sweet little smile. The pictures show him surrounded with pastel covered, adoring fans. This is not the dissident, powerful, charismatic carpenter I would like to know.
Dina and I are the first to arrive. The other women are due in an hour or so. They are driving from D.C. and Virginia, where they have been stumping on the ERA trail. This is giving me too much time to sit and stew and get really scared. I can hear Dina in the next room; she must be recording her journal. I am stuffed but wonder what will happen if I don’t have food for forty-four days. Maybe it won’t take forty-four days. I’m hungry.
What if no one cares? What if there is no press coverage? If I was the opposition I would deflate this by ignoring it, trivializing it or even mocking it. But I have to remember that there is a magnificent precedent for fasting. Most of my favorite people have fasted. My heart says I have no choice.
I hear the others have arrived. Maybe they have some food.
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