Politics

Phyllis Schlafly lived an illustrious life and a full career while advocating that women stay home

Phyllis Schlafly passed away this Monday. She was 92-years-old.

With her militant-like battles against communism, abortion, and equal rights for women, Schlafly helped shape the political landscape for today’s religious right. In the 1970s, the ultimate failure of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was largely attributed to her after she mobilized a force against the bill just when it seemed destined for quick approval. The bill died on June 30, 1982.

The great irony about Schlafly’s life was that she was revered on the right for fighting to preserve the 50s-era idea of femininity, promoting the culture of the dutiful housewife. But in reality, she didn’t even come close to reflecting that ideal.

While many of her liberal and feminist opponents theorized that her husband’s wealth allowed her the freedom to be an activist, it’s clear that her drive and ironically ‘liberated’ mindset is what allowed her to be a forbearer of right wing causes.

From The Atlantic’s Kate Klonic:

Schlafly was a veteran of politics with years of elite education and political experience (though little of it successful) to build on: She was an honors graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and a masters program at Radcliffe. She twice ran unsuccessfully for United States Congress. She authored dozens of political (some might say conspiratorial) books and she was active in national Republican politics for decades before picking up the STOP ERA mantle.

Nothing about her resume suggested that she was a woman who wanted to be a homemaker.

She was front-and-center for her movement in the national media, participated in spirited debates with ERA advocates (many of whom were intellectual powerhouses), wrote and published The Phyllis Schlafly Report each month, managed to graduate from law school at Washington University of St. Louis while fighting the ERA, wrote and edited more than 20 books – all while raising 6 children.

“Schlafly had discovered a genuine populist sentiment in a large female population that opposed the E.R.A., feminism and modern liberalism with the same intensity of emotion that feminists brought to their cause,” Donald T. Critchlow wrote in his 2005 book “Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade.”

When opponents called her a hypocrite for leading such an illustrious life while advocating for traditional gender roles, she responded that her political career was simply a “hobby.”

In the end, as Klonic points out, “Schlafly was the woman who organized and empowered women to fight the organization and empowerment of women.”

[The Atlantic/The New York Times] Featured image: Gage Skidmore (Flickr)

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