Phyllis Schlafly was more of a champion for women’s rights than any of her so-called feminist contemporaries.
Without the use of hobby horses and bra-burning, Schlafly carved a place in a man’s world with sheer intellect and achievement. She was a peer, not a play thing. While Gloria Steinem was posing for Playboy, Schlafly was giving birth to babies — and to a powerful new movement that was greater than herself.
Some called Schlafly a hero while others called her a witch, who, as Betty Friedan once suggested, should be burned at the stake. But Schlafly was by all accounts, even by some who opposed her, a remarkable woman.
At age 19, Schlafly finished a degree in just three years at Washington University in St. Louis. She managed to graduate Phi Beta Kappa while working nightly testing ammunition at a war plant. Schlafly was one of the first women to get a master’s degree from Harvard in 1945. Long before “women’s rights,” Schlafly was writing on nuclear disarmament and the Cold War. She gave birth to and nursed six children, the youngest of whom was 18 months old when she began law school.
Schlafly believed that womanhood found its fullest expression in the context of marriage, motherhood and intellect. She was beautiful, stylish, and elegant, but believed it more noble to offer the precious gift of sexual intimacy to one man for a lifetime. She was a whole woman, complete in every way, dedicated to Fred Schlafly, who in return loved her only.
To feminists in the battle for the Equal Rights Amendment of 1973, that was reprehensible. They found “freedom” in multiple sexual partners and in aborting babies as a result of that “freedom.”
According to the narrative, Schlafly opposed “equal rights” for women. But of course, the ERA wasn’t about equal rights at all. It was about erasing any differences between men and women. Schlafly wasn’t opposed to women being equal, she was opposed to them being the same as men.
Schlafly predicted the unthinkable: that the ERA would erase all protections for women from the draft, even from combat. What’s more, Schlafly argued it would lay the groundwork for gay marriage. Ronald Reagan called Schlafly’s winning strategy to defeat the ERA “brilliant.”
Schlafly also led the fight against the march of the left through America’s public schools, out-of-control illegal immigration, and restoring America’s unique patent system. She exposed the dangers of political correctness, judicial tyranny, and any effort to supplant the Constitution.
The economist George Gilder wrote in his book “Men and Marriage” that Schlafly “will take her place among the tiny number of leaders who made a decisive and permanent difference. She changed the political landscape of her country.”
While adorned and coiffed female talking heads were supposedly breaking new ground by simply interviewing people, Schlafly was one of the first women to offer serious political commentary. She laid her opponents low with wit, charm and beauty.
Phyllis took the name “Eagle Forum” for her organization from a verse in the Bible: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
She embodied that verse. I recently confessed to her that I was getting tired in the battle, contemplating retirement. “Good luck with that,” she said wryly, knowing all too well the passion that drives some of us to fight to the end.
Phyllis Schlafly, the quintessential eagle of our time, has soared.
Sandy Rios is director of governmental affairs for the American Family Association and host of “Sandy Rios in the Morning” on AFR Talk.