Remembering Crater's Raiders

Published:February 4, 2009 by Brendan Wolfe

An obituary in the Metro section of the Washington Post caught my eye this morning. Flora M. Crater was 94 and a woman’s rights activist in Virginia.

Ms. Crater, founder and editor of the Woman Activist newsletter and the Almanac of Virginia Politics, led a group of women known as Crater’s Raiders to lobby for the ERA during the 1970s and 1980s. She was still working for the amendment with various organizations until her death.

Although the Virginia legislature has never ratified the ERA, and a leading legislator in 1984 called equal pay for comparable work “a communist concept,” Ms. Crater never gave up the fight.

“We keep continuing the fight,” she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2000. “This isn’t symbolic, either. You’ve got to remember that 35 states ratified it.”

Crater, who was born in Costa Rica and raised in Orange, seems like she would have fit right in with the women who fought for suffrage in Virginia. I’m thinking in particular of Adèle Clark, Mary Johnston, Kate Waller Barrett, and Lila Meade Valentine, founders of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia and the Crater’s Raiders of their day.

I particularly liked this detail from Encyclopedia Virginia‘s woman suffrage entry:

The league held street meetings in Capitol Square and on Broad Street at the corners of Fifth and Sixth streets, where Clark would set up her easel and start painting to lure the curious to suffrage speeches. “It reached the point,” she remembered, “where I couldn’t see a fireplug without beginning ‘Ladies and gentlemen.'”

Like I said, kindred spirits, Crater and Clark. It’s ironic, though, that Clark, who lived to be one hundred years old, vigorously opposed the Equal Rights Amendment. “This is an appalling amendment,” she told an audience in 1973. “It reflects the thinking of fifty years ago. They are fighting a battle that has already been won.”