Ultraconservative Republican Activist and Anti-Feminist
Quick Facts: Phyllis Schlafly
- Lived August 15, 1924 – September 5, 2016
- Known for her Republican ultraconservative politics and her STOP-ERA campaign
- Political activist, attorney, writer; she was a columnist, newsletter writer, and book author
- Also known as: Phyllis Stewart Schlafly, “Gloria Steinem of the Right”
Biography of Phyllis Schlafly
Phyllis Schlafly was born in St. Louis. Her father, an engineer, lost his job in 1930 in the Depression and her mother worked as a librarian.
After attending Catholic schools through her first year in college, Phyllis Schlafly put herself through Washington University by working full-time in a World War II defense job testing explosives. She went to Radcliffe on a fellowship for her master’s degree in government, and then took a job in Washington, D.C. with the American Enterprise Association.
Dissatisfied, she said later, with the bureaucracy of the federal government, Phyllis Schlafly returned to St. Louis to work on a Republican congressional campaign, and she worked as a bank researcher until 1949.
In October of 1949, she married Fred Schlafly, a lawyer, and together they had six children. Based in Alton, Illinois, across the river from St. Louis, Phyllis Schlafly remained active in Republican Party political work. She stressed such issues as anti-Communism and small government.
She ran unsuccessfully for a seat in Congress in 1952, the first of three such unsuccessful campaigns.
In the 1950s she wrote several pamphlets about the dangers of Communism and the Soviet Union and served as national defense chairman of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1956, supporting Eisenhower. In 1960, Schlafly was a Nixon delegate to the Republican National Convention.
She was president of the Illinois Federation of Republican Women from 1956 to 1964.
In 1964, Phyllis Schlafly supported the candidacy of Barry Goldwater, and was a delegate for Goldwater at the Republican National Convention that year. Her book, A Choice Not an Echo, has been credited with helping Goldwater win the nomination. In that book, Schlafly denounced the “small group of secret kingmakers” of the Eastern elite of the party for their influence on Republican presidential nominations since 1936. Goldwater’s landslide defeat did not stop Schlafly and her allies within the party from a strategy of moving the party more to the right.
Between 1964 and 1976, Schlafly co-authored five books on defense and nuclear policy with retired Rear Admiral Chester Ward. She became increasingly critical of U.S. foreign policy as undermining American defenses against Soviet communism.
In 1967, Schlafly lost a hotly-contested election for the presidency of the National Federation of Republican Women, and she founded in that year a newsletter aimed at ultraconservative women, The Phyllis Schlafly Report.
Phyllis Schlafly promoted the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, which was co-founded by her sister.
In 1971, Phyllis Schlafly co-wrote a book on Mindszenty, a Hungarian anti-communist priest.
By 1972, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution had been ratified quickly by 30 of the 38 states needed for adoption. In February of that year, Phyllis Schlafly took on the ERA in The Phyllis Schlafly Report, and she founded STOP-ERA to organize against ratification in the remaining states.
Her arguments against the ERA included claims that it would:
- undermine traditional families
- remove legal protections of wives
- subject women to the military draft
- remove barriers to women in combat
- promote abortion on demand
- open the way for “homosexual marriage”
- require that public bathrooms be unisex
At the height of the anti-ERA campaign and arguing for traditional families with stay-at-home-mothers, Phyllis Schlafly returned to school herself and earned a law degree from Washington University Law School in 1978.
Her husband briefly forbid her from going to law school, but gave his permission a couple of weeks after he first denied it.
Phyllis Schlafly’s anti-ERA efforts were successful. After the ratification period for the ERA expired in June 1982, Phyllis Schlafly leveraged her successful organization into a multi-issue ultraconservative organization, the Eagle Forum. She worked on such “culture” issues as supporting school prayer and opposing “comparable worth” programs.
In 1992, Phyllis Schlafly was in the news because one of her sons “came out” as gay, leading to charges of hypocrisy by her critics. That same year, Schlafly was named Illinois Mother of the Year.
On May 16, 2008, amid controversy and protests, Washington University bestowed an honorary doctorate on its alumna, Phyllis Schlafly.
She continued political activity through her later years. She left behind a book, The Conservative Case for Trump, with an official publication date the day after she died on September 5, 2016. Ed Martin and Brett Decker were co-authors.
Background & Family
- Father: John Bruce Stewart, engineer
- Mother: Odille Dodge Stewart, homemaker and librarian
Religion: Roman Catholic
- Sisters of the Sacred Heart: City House
- Maryville College of the Sacred Heart (1 year)
- Washington University, 1942-1944, B.A.
- Radcliffe, M.A. in government, 1945
- Washington University, J.D., 1978
- husband: Fred Schlafly (married October 20, 1949; lawyer)
- children: six children
Places: St. Louis, Missouri; Alton, Illinois
- 1964: A Choice Not an Echo
- 1964: Safe — Not Sorry
- 1971: Mindszenty the Man
- 1975: Kissinger on the Couch with Chester Ward
- 1977: The Power of the Positive Woman
- 1981: The Power of the Christian Woman
- 1984: Equal Pay for UNEqual Work
- 1984: Child Abuse in the Classroom
- 1987: Pornography’s Victims
- 1989 (editor): Who Will Rock the Cradle? The Battle for Control of Child Care in America
- 2003: Feminist Fantasies
- 2004/6: The Supremacists: The Tyranny of Judges and How to Stop It
- 2011: The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know — and Can’t Say with Suzanne Venker
- 2012: No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom. With George Neumayr
- 2014: Who Killed the American Family?
- 2015: Goldwater: The Man Who Made a Revolution with Lee Edwards
- 2016: How the Republican Party Became Pro-Life
- 2016: The Conservative Case for Trump. With Ed Martin and Brett M. Decker.
BOOKS WITH CHESTER WARD, RETIRED REAR ADMIRAL, ON DEFENSE POLICY:
- 1964: The Graveyard
- 1965: Strike from Space
- 1968: The Betrayed
- 1975: Kissinger on the Couch
- 1976: Ambush at Vladivostock
- 1959: Inside the Communist Conspiracy (a bibliography in pamphlet form)
- 1967 – : The Phyllis Schlafly Report
- 1976 – : Copley News Service syndicated column
- 1986 – : Education Reports (editor)
BOOKS ABOUT PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY:
- Carol Felsenthal, 1981: The Sweetheart of the Silent Majority.
- Peter N. Caroll, 1985: Famous in America: The Passion to Succeed.
- Donald T. Critchlow, 2006: Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism