Phyllis Schlafly, 1924-2016

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Woman Category: Law and Politics & LeadersWoman Tags: Author, Lawyer, and WDC Metro Area Women

  • HerStory

    A lawyer, writer, conservative political activist, and political analyst. Best known for campaigning against ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.

    Born Phyllis McAlpin Stewart in St. Louis, Missouri. Growing up during the great depression, her father was unemployed, and her mother supported the family. She studied at a private Catholic girls’ school, from which she graduated valedictorian. After high school, she was granted a scholarship to Maryville College of the Sacred Heart but moved to the Washington University in St. Louis. To pay for tuition, she worked night shifts test-firing guns at a munition factory. At the age of 20, after graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Arts, she continued to study for a Master’s degree in government at Radcliffe College. At 22, she joined a conservative think tank for a short time, before joining the Claude I. Bakewell’s campaign for the United States House of Representatives.
    At the age of 25, she married John Fred Schlafly Jr. – a wealthy attorney, and the couple moved to Alton, Illinois. She became politicly active after attending the Republican National Convention of 1952, and during this year, she made her first run for the US Congress but lost in the general election. After another loss in the 1960 elections, she began to serve as head of the Illinois Federation of Republican Women. In 1964, at the age of 40, she published her first book – A Choice Not An Echo, in which she discussed the issue of elitism in the Republican party. It sold millions of copies and was credited for the wide support of Barry Goldwater during the 1964 presidential campaign. In 1967. After losing the National Federation of Republican Women’s presidency, she began publishing a monthly newsletter titled “The Phyllis Schlafly Report,” promoting her political views.
    During 1972 when Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment, ERA, and its ratification in the states started, Schlafly launched a campaign to stop its ratification – Stop ERA. She argued that the ERA is threatening traditional gender roles, strip women from their gender privileges and housewives’ benefits, and force them to work and serve in the military. In 1975, she founded and led the Eagle Forum, which gathered hundreds of thousands of women from all over the country to fight against the ERA ratification. They reached out to their legislators in various ways, from writing letters to sending them homemade food with slogans such as “Preserve us from a congressional jam; Vote against the ERA sham.” She was a key player at the failure of the ratification of the ERA by 38 states.
    Following the ERA defeat, Schlafly remained politicly active, serving as a delegate at Republican national conventions, providing commentaries on the radio, appearing on TV, and writing a newspaper column, where she was outspoken against issues such as abortions and legalization of same-sex marriage. In 1993, after her husband died, she moved to Ladue, Missouri, where she lived until she died at the age of 92.

    “What I am defending is the real rights of women. A woman should have the right to be in the home as a wife and mother.”

    “What I am defending is the real rights of women. A woman should have the right to be in the home as a wife and mother.”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • Her conservative views opposed feminism, abortions, and same-sex marriage.
    • She ran three times for Congress but lost.
    • Over the years, she published 26 books on various subjects, from feminism to family and childcare.
    • She had six children.
    • She was portrayed by cate Blanchett in the miniseries Mrs. America.
    • She opened her speeches with the line, “I’d like to thank my husband, Fred, for letting me be here today” because it irritated the women’s libbers more than anything.
    • Although she used anti-gay rhetoric, she stood by her son when he declared he was gay.
    • She earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law at the age of 53.
    • She was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as a member of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the US Constitution.
  • More About Her Legacy

    * Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Washington University (2008)
    * National patriot awards from the Sons of the Revolution and the Sons of the American Revolution
    * Henry Hyde Life Leadership Award (2009)
    * Defender of Life Award (2010)

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  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Phyllis Schlafly interview Can Women Have It All?

    Phyllis Schlafly interviews on a special program from WXYZ Detroit called "Women's Work." She argues that the modern feminist movement and ERA really don't give any rights to women. Instead, they would limit the choices and rights that women now enjoy. Can women really have it all? Watch the video to find out.

    This aired in September 1989.

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