From Housewives to Protesters: Mormons for the ERA: "Fasting for Justice"
"Fasting for Justice"
MERA utilized religious rituals such as fasting and missionary work for the purpose of promoting and drawing attention to the ERA. In May and June of 1982 seven women, three of whom came from Mormon backgrounds, fasted for 37 days. The fast had long been part of the larger feminist movement and recalled the practice of fasting and hunger strikes during the struggle for the 19th Amendment. However, this was specifically a fast that called upon a higher power for help in the fight for ratification. In a statement issued on the first day of the fast the women asserted, “We hope the spiritual energy and enlightenment we generate will ultimately free both the oppressed and the oppressors from the cycle of injustice in which we have both been bound.”  These women were using fasting as a method of focusing their faith and calling upon a higher power who they believed would help them in their quest for equality and ERA ratification. ERA supporters also drew upon religious rituals such as missionary work in an effort to promote their cause.
In the spring of 1981 ERA missionaries began targeting the Salt Lake Valley seeking to “convert” residents to support ratification of the amendment. The missionaries patterned themselves after the LDS Church’s program and traveled in twos wearing professional dress and knocking on residents' doors with the hope of sharing their message. ERA missionaries were part of a national campaign and not strictly a MERA initiative. National Organization for Women (NOW) explained that their aim was to “expose the church hierarchy’s political involvement in opposing constitutional equality for women.”  In the call for missionaries, NOW makes it very clear this protest technique directly targets the LDS Church. They write:
We propose to focus our first project of non-violent protest on one major institution, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) -a religious establishment, a political force, and a multi-billion dollar empire which is systematically blocking ERA ratification in several states including Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Missouri, Virginia and Florida. The Mormon church has officially and actively opposed ERA ratification and the extension and has fought for recession. Therefore, it is time to bring the ERA campaign home to the Mormon Church and to Utah. Each year, the Mormon hierarchy sends male missionaries across the world to preach its word. We must send feminist missionaries to Utah. 
NOW published stories from the missionaries who viewed the protest technique as a great success.  Local newspapers in Utah printed headlines using LDS language such as “NOW Missionaries Begin Utah Tracting Today.”  Tracting is an LDS term which refers to missionaries knocking on doors in the community in an effort to share their gospel message.
Fasting and missionary work are not strictly male rituals in the LDS faith. They are open to both men’s and women’s participation. However, the Church primarily sees missionary work as a male priesthood responsibility. Women are able to serve missions, but at that time were not able to do so until the age of twenty-one and it is not considered one of their responsibilities. MERA participation in missionary efforts serves as an example of how activists directly entered the male sphere of the LDS Church and fulfilled a role that is typically reserved for LDS men.
 “Women’s Fast for Justice” MERA Newsletter 1982. MERA MSS 225, Box 3, Folder 1, USUSCA.
 George Raine, “Equal Rights Missionaries in Mormon Country,” New York Times, MERA MSS 225, Box 19, Folder 10, USUSCA.
 “ERA: Call to Mission,” MERA MSS 225, Box 16, Folder 2, USUSCA.
 “Reflections from ERA Missionaries,” MERA MSS 225, Box 16, Folder 2, USUSCA.
 “Now Missionaries Begin Utah Tracting Today” The Herald, May 4, 1981. MERA MSS 225, Box 16, Folder 2, USUSCA.