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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,828
September 8, 2016
Phyllis Schlafly: Conservative Icon Dies
By Mike McManus


"Phyllis Schlafly will be remembered for her courageous leadership in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. With the political establishment, the media, and academia all arrayed against her, she organized a grassroots movement that not only stopped the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) but became the foundation for the pro-life, pro-family movement that we have today," asserted Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council.

Congress passed ERA and within a year it was ratified by 30 states, needing only eight more to be added to the Constitution. But in 1972 Schlafly argued it disadvantaged stay-at-home mothers compared to their working counterparts. According to The Washington Post, she believed it would open the door to same-sex marriage, abortion and the military draft for women.

She was almost too late when she launched "Stop ERA" that united fundamentalists, evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons and Orthodox Jews into state chapters dedicated to thwarting passage. Congress extended the ratification deadline - yet 15 states rejected it and five others rescinded their ratifications. The ERA fell three states short of passage.

She staged a festive burial party, saying the nation could enter "a new era of harmony between women and men." More important, the battle helped launch the family values, pro-life movement in the United States.

When Reagan's Surgeon General C. Everett Koop tried to introduce AIDS education in public schools, Schalfly tartly likened it to "the teaching of safe sodomy." She labeled sex education "a principal cause of teenage pregnancy."

Born 92 years ago to a machinist and a librarian, she worked 48 hours a week in a World War II ordnance plant, firing machine guns to test the ammunition to put herself through Washington University. She earned a master's degree in political science in 1945 at Radcliff College, Harvard's sister school, and earned a law degree from Washington University.

She said she was "saved from the life as a working girl" by marrying a wealthy lawyer, Fred Schlafly in 1949 and began life as a stay-at-home mom who had six kids in Alton, IL. She did anti-Communist research for Sen. Joseph McCarthy, was nominated for Congress in 1952 but lost, and later failed at two other Congressional races.

However, she became a radio commentator, once calling the atomic bomb "a marvelous gift given to our country by a wise God." An enthusiastic supporter of Barry Goldwater, she burst on the national scene with a self-published first book, "A Choice Not an Echo," which sold a stunning 3.5 million copies.

That success inspired her to write a series of books about national defense with a retired admiral, blaming Defense Secretary Robert McNamara for a weakening of the U.S. so the Soviets could overwhelm America. One of her 20 books contended that communists instigated the urban riots of 1967. Her latest book "The Conservative Case for Trump" coauthored by Ed Martin and Brett Decker will be released Tuesday.

She also published a monthly newsletter, the Phyllis Schlafly Report, wrote 2,500 syndicated newspaper columns, produced radio commentaries and anchored a radio talk show.

Mrs. Schlafly challenged feminist thinking that said housewives lived in "a comfortable concentration camp," and women were "victims of patriarchy" who needed government to solve their problems.

In fact, she sparked feminist outrage, such as this comment during a 1973 ERA debate by Betty Friedan "I'd like to burn you at the stake." Schlafly coolly responded that such a comment "shows the intemperate nature of proponents of ERA."

Her husband of 44 years died in 1993 and she moved back to St. Louis where she opposed federal judicial activism, ballots in languages other than English, and "privacy-invading questions" on the Census. She repeatedly said a woman's most important job is to be a wife and mother - but she employed a full-time housekeeper. However, she was never away from home overnight, and often took her infants to speaking engagements.

In 1981 she told a Senate labor committee hearing on sexual harassment in the workplace, that "Men hardly ever ask sexual favors of women from whom the certain answer is `No.' Virtuous women are seldom accosted by unwelcome sexual propositions or familiarities, obscene talk or profane language."

Phyllis Schalfly was active to the very end of her 92 years, dying one day after Pope Francis elevated Mother Teresa to sainthood.

No other women were so inspirational in very different worlds in the past century.

Copyright (c) 2016 Michel J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. For previous columns go to Hit Search for any topic.

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