Phyllis McAlpin Stewart
August 15, 1924
|Died||September 5, 2016 (aged 92)|
Ladue, Missouri, U.S.
|Education||Washington University (BA, JD)|
Radcliffe College (MA)
(m. 1949; died 1993)
|Children||6, including Andrew|
|Relatives||Thomas Schlafly (nephew)|
Suzanne Venker (niece)
|This article is part of a series on|
in the United States
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Phyllis Stewart Schlafly (//; born Phyllis McAlpin Stewart; August 15, 1924 – September 5, 2016) was an American attorney, conservative activist, author, and anti-feminist spokesperson for the national conservative movement. She held paleoconservative social and political views, opposed feminism, gay rights and abortion, and successfully campaigned against ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
More than three million copies of her self-published book A Choice Not an Echo (1964), a polemic against Republican leader Nelson Rockefeller, were sold or distributed for free. Schlafly co-authored books on national defense and was critical of arms control agreements with the Soviet Union. In 1972, Schlafly founded the Eagle Forum, a conservative political interest group, and remained its chairwoman and CEO until her death in 2016 while staying active in conservative causes.
Schlafly was born Phyllis McAlpin Stewart and was raised in St. Louis. During the Great Depression, Schlafly's father John Bruce Stewart faced long-term unemployment, beginning in 1932. Her mother, Odile Stewart (née Dodge), went back to work as a librarian and a school teacher to support her family. Mrs. Stewart was able to keep the family afloat and maintained Phyllis in a Catholic girls' school. Before her marriage, Mrs. Stewart worked as a teacher at a private girls' school in St. Louis. Phyllis’ sole sibling was her younger sister, Odile Stewart (married name Mecker; 1930–2015). Phyllis attended college and graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis and Radcliffe College, respectively.
Schlafly's great-grandfather Stewart, a Presbyterian, emigrated from Scotland to New York in 1851 and moved westward through Canada before settling in Michigan. Her grandfather, Andrew F. Stewart, was a master mechanic with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. Schlafly's father was a machinist and salesman of industrial equipment, principally for Westinghouse. He was granted a patent in 1944 for a rotary engine.
She attended Maryville College, but after one year, transferred to Washington University in St. Louis. In 1944, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa). In 1945, she received a Master of Arts degree in government from Radcliffe College (for which the then all-male Harvard University was a coordinate institution). In Strike From Space (1965), Schlafly observed that during World War II, she worked as "a ballistics gunner and technician at the largest ammunition plant in the world". She earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Washington University School of Law in 1978.
Activism and political efforts
She played a major role with her husband in 1957 in writing the "American Bar Association's Report on Communist Tactics, Strategy, and Objectives." Donald T. Critchlow says it "became not only one of the most widely read documents ever produced by the ABA, it was probably the single most widely read publication of the grassroots anticommunist movement."
In 1952, Schlafly ran for Congress as a Republican in the majority Democratic 24th congressional district of Illinois and lost to Charles Melvin Price by 117,408 votes (64.80%) to 63,778 (35.20%). Schlafly's campaign was low-budget and promoted heavily through the local print media, and the major munitions manufacturers John M. Olin and Spencer Truman Olin, and the Texas oil billionaire H. L. Hunt.
She attended her first Republican National Convention in 1952, and continued to attend each following convention. As part of the Illinois delegation of the 1952 Republican convention, Schlafly endorsed U.S. Senator Robert A. Taft to be the party nominee for the presidential election. At the 1960 Republican National Convention, Schlafly helped lead a revolt of "moral conservatives" who opposed Richard Nixon's stance "against segregation and discrimination." Schlafly was the Republican nominee for Illinois's 24th congressional district again in 1960, losing again to Price, this time by 144,560 votes (72.22%) to 55,620 (27.79%).
She came to national attention when millions of copies of her self-published book A Choice Not an Echo were distributed in support of Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign, especially in California's hotly fought winner-take-all-delegates GOP primary. In it, Schlafly denounced the Rockefeller Republicans in the Northeast, accusing them of corruption and globalism. Critics called the book a conspiracy theory about "secret kingmakers" controlling the Republican Party. Schlafly had previously been a member of the John Birch Society, but quit, and later denied she had been a member because she feared her association with the organization would damage her book's reputation. By mutual agreement her books were not mentioned in the John Birch Society's magazine, and the distribution of her books by the society was handled so as to mask their involvement. The society was able to dispense 300,000 copies of A Choice Not an Echo in California prior to the June 2, 1964 GOP primary. Gardiner Johnson, Republican National Committee for California, stated that the distribution of her book in California was a major factor in Goldwater's winning the nomination.
In 1967, Schlafly lost a bid for the presidency of the National Federation of Republican Women against the more moderate candidate Gladys O'Donnell of California. Outgoing NFRW president and future United States Treasurer Dorothy Elston of Delaware worked against Schlafly in the campaign.
In 1970, she ran unsuccessfully for Illinois's 23rd congressional district, losing to Democratic incumbent George E. Shipley by 91,158 votes (53.97%) to 77,762 (46.04%). She never sought public office again.
American feminists made their greatest bid for national attention at the 1977 National Women's Conference in Houston; however, historian Marjorie J. Spruill argues that the anti-feminists led by Schlafly organized a highly successful counter-conference, the Pro-Life, Pro-Family Rally, to protest the National Women's Conference and make it clear that feminists did not speak for them. At their rally at the Astro Arena they had an overflow of over 15,000 people, and announced the beginning of a pro-family movement to oppose politicians who had been supporting feminism and liberalism, and to promote "family values" in American politics, and so moved the Republican Party to the right and defeated the ratification of the ERA.
Opposition to Equal Rights Amendment
Schlafly became an outspoken opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) during the 1970s as the organizer of the "STOP ERA" campaign. STOP was a backronym for "Stop Taking Our Privileges". She argued that the ERA would take away gender-specific privileges currently enjoyed by women, including "dependent wife" benefits under Social Security, separate restrooms for males and females, and exemption from Selective Service (the military draft). She was opposed by groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the ERAmerica coalition. The Homemakers' Equal Rights Association was formed to counter Schlafly's campaign.
In 1972, when Schlafly began her campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment, the ERA had already been ratified by 28 of the required 38 states. Seven more states ratified the amendment after Schlafly began organizing opposition, but another five states rescinded their ratifications. The last state to ratify the ERA was Indiana, where State Senator Wayne Townsend cast the tie-breaking vote in January 1977. (Nevada, Illinois and Virginia ratified the ERA between 2017 and 2020, many years after the deadline to do so.)
Many people who followed the struggle over the ERA believed—rightly in my view—that the Amendment would have been ratified by 1975 or 1976 had it not been for Phyllis Schlafly's early and effective effort to organize potential opponents.
Joan Williams argues, "ERA was defeated when Schlafly turned it into a war among women over gender roles." Historian Judith Glazer-Raymo argues:
As moderates, we thought we represented the forces of reason and goodwill but failed to take seriously the power of the family values argument and the single-mindedness of Schlafly and her followers. The ERA's defeat seriously damaged the women's movement, destroying its momentum and its potential to foment social change ... Eventually, this resulted in feminist dissatisfaction with the Republican Party, giving the Democrats a new source of strength that when combined with overwhelming minority support, helped elect Bill Clinton to the presidency in 1992 and again in 1996.
Critics of Schlafly viewed her advocacy against equal rights and her role as a working professional as a contradiction. Gloria Steinem and author Pia de Solenni, among others, considered it ironic that in Schlafly's role as an advocate for the full-time mother and wife, she herself was a lawyer, newsletter editor, touring speaker, and political activist.
In broadcast media, Schlafly provided commentaries on Chicago news radio station WBBM from 1973 to 1975, the CBS Morning News from 1974 to 1975, and then on CNN from 1980 to 1983. In 1983, she began creating syndicated daily 3-minute commentaries for radio. In 1989, she began hosting a weekly radio talk show, Eagle Forum Live.
Equal Rights Amendment
Schlafly focused political opposition to the ERA in defense of traditional gender roles, such as only men fighting in war. She argued that the Equal Rights Amendment would eliminate the men-only draft and ensure that women would be equally subject to conscription and be required to serve in combat, and that defense of traditional gender roles proved a useful tactic. In Illinois, the anti-ERA activists used traditional symbols of the American housewife, and took homemade foods (bread, jams, apple pies, etc.) to the state legislators, with the slogans, "Preserve us from a congressional jam; Vote against the ERA sham" and "I am for Mom and apple pie."
The historian Lisa Levenstein said that, in the late 1970s, the feminist movement briefly attempted a program to help older divorced and widowed women. Many widows were ineligible for Social Security benefits, few divorcees received alimony, and, after a career as a housewife, few had any work skills with which to enter the labor force. The program, however, encountered sharp criticism from young activists who gave priority to poor minority women rather than to middle-class women. By 1980, NOW downplayed the program, as they focused almost exclusively on ratification of the ERA. Schlafly moved into the political vacuum, and denounced the feminists for abandoning older, middle-class widows and divorcees in need, and warned that the ERA would unbalance the laws in favor of men, stripping legal protections that older women urgently needed.
Schlafly said that the ERA was designed for the benefit of young career women, and warned that if men and women had to be treated equally, that social condition would threaten the security of middle-aged housewives without job skills. She also contended that the ERA would repeal legal protections, such as alimony, and eliminate the judicial tendency for divorced mothers to receive custody of their children. Schlafly's argument that protective laws would be lost resonated with working-class women.
In March 2007, Schlafly spoke against the concept of marital rape in a speech at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, "By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don't think you can call it rape."
In an interview on March 30, 2006, she attributed improvement in women's lives during the last decades of the 20th century to labor-saving devices such as the indoor clothes dryer and disposable diapers.
In 2007, while working to defeat a new version of the Equal Rights Amendment, Schlafly warned it would force courts to approve same-sex marriages and deny Social Security benefits for housewives and widows.
United Nations and international relations
Over the years, Schlafly disdained the United Nations. On the 50th anniversary of the UN in 1995, she referred to it as "a cause for mourning, not celebration. It is a monument to foolish hopes, embarrassing compromises, betrayal of our servicemen, and a steady stream of insults to our nation. It is a Trojan Horse that carries the enemy into our midst and lures Americans to ride under alien insignia to fight and die in faraway lands." She opposed President Bill Clinton's decision in 1996 to send 20,000 American troops to Bosnia during the Yugoslav Wars. Schlafly observed that Balkan nations have fought one another for 500 years and argued that the U.S. military should not be "policemen" of world trouble spots.
Prior to the 1994 Congressional elections, Schlafly condemned globalization through the World Trade Organization as a "direct attack on American sovereignty, independence, jobs, and economy ... any country that must change its laws to obey rulings of a world organization has sacrificed its sovereignty."
In late 2006, Schlafly collaborated with Jerome Corsi and Howard Phillips to create a website in opposition to the idea of a "North American Union", under which the United States, Mexico, and Canada would share a currency and be integrated in a structure similar to the European Union.
During the Cold War, Schlafly opposed arms control agreements with the Soviet Union. In 1961, she wrote that "[arms control] will not stop Red aggression any more than disarming our local police will stop murder, theft, and rape."
Schlafly was an outspoken critic of what she termed "activist judges", particularly on the Supreme Court. In 2005, Schlafly made headlines at a conference for the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration by suggesting that "Congress ought to talk about impeachment" of Justice Anthony Kennedy, citing as specific grounds Justice Kennedy's deciding vote to abolish the death penalty for minors.
In April 2010, shortly after John Paul Stevens announced his retirement as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Schlafly called for the appointment of a military veteran to the Court. Stevens had been a veteran and, with his retirement, the court was "at risk of being left without a single military veteran."
Schlafly did not endorse a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, but she spoke out against Mike Huckabee, who, she says, as governor left the Republican Party in Arkansas "in shambles". At the Eagle Forum, she hosted U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado, known for his opposition to illegal immigration. Before his election, she criticized Barack Obama as "an elitist who worked with words".
During the election, she endorsed John McCain in an interview by saying: "Well, I'm a Republican, I'm supporting McCain". When asked about criticism of John McCain from Rush Limbaugh, she said: "Well, there are problems, we are trying to teach him".
Schlafly endorsed Michele Bachmann in December 2011 for the Iowa caucus of the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, citing Bachmann's work against "ObamaCare" and deficit spending and Bachmann's support of "traditional values."
On February 3, 2012, Schlafly announced that she would be voting for Rick Santorum in that year's Missouri Republican primary. In 2016, she endorsed Donald Trump's candidacy for president. The endorsement soon led to a breach in the Eagle Forum board. Schlafly broke with six dissident members, including her daughter, Anne Cori, and Cathie Adams, the former state chairman of the Texas Republican Party. Adams instead supported U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Trump's principal challenger whom Adams considered a more conservative choice.
Schlafly opposed same-sex marriage and civil unions: "[a]ttacks on the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman come from the gay lobby seeking social recognition of their lifestyle." Linking the Equal Rights Amendment to LGBT rights and same-sex marriage played a role in Schlafly's opposition to the ERA.
Schlafly believed the Republican Party should reject immigration reform proposals; she told Focus Today that it is a "great myth" that the GOP needs to reach out to Latinos in the United States. "The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes, the white voters who didn't vote in the last election. The propagandists are leading us down the wrong path ... [T]here's not any evidence at all that these Hispanics coming in from Mexico will vote Republican."
Honorary degree and protests
On May 1, 2008, the trustees of Washington University in St. Louis, announced that Schlafly would receive an honorary degree at the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2008. This news was met with objection from some students and faculty, who complained she was anti-feminist and criticized her work in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment. In a letter, fourteen law professors complained Schlafly' career demonstrated "anti-intellectualism in pursuit of a political agenda."
While the trustees' honorary-degree committee unanimously approved who would be honored, five student-members of the committee complained, in writing, that they were required to vote for the five people to be honored, as a slate, rather than individually, and thought that the selection of Schlafly was a mistake, despite her prominence as a famous graduate of Washington University. In the days before the graduation ceremony, Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton explained the trustees' decision to award Schlafly an honorary degree with the following statement of disclaimer:
In bestowing this degree, the University is not endorsing Mrs. Schlafly's views or opinions; rather, it is recognizing an alumna of the University whose life and work have had a broad impact on American life and have sparked widespread debate and controversies that in many cases have helped people better formulate and articulate their own views about the values they hold.
At the May 16, 2008, commencement ceremony, Schlafly was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, yet faculty and students protested to rescind Schlafly's honorary degree. During the ceremony, hundreds of the 14,000 people in attendance, including one-third of the graduating class and some faculty, silently stood and turned their backs to Schlafly in protest. In the days before the commencement there were protests regarding the awarding of an honorary degree; Schlafly described the protesters as "a bunch of losers". Moreover, after the ceremony, Schlafly said that the protesters were "juvenile" and "I'm not sure they're mature enough to graduate." As planned, Schlafly did not address the graduating class, nor did any other honored guest, except for the commencement speaker, news commentator Chris Matthews of MSNBC.
On October 20, 1949, she married attorney John Fred Schlafly Jr., a member of a wealthy St. Louis family; he died in 1993. His grandfather, August, immigrated in 1854 from Switzerland. In the late 1870s, the three brothers founded the firm of Schlafly Bros., which dealt in groceries, Queensware (dishes made by Wedgwood), hardware, and agricultural implements. Fred and Phyllis Schlafly were both active Catholics. They linked Catholicism to Americanism and often exhorted Catholics to join the anti-communist crusade.
Fred and Phyllis Schlafly moved across the Mississippi River to Alton, Illinois, and had six children: John, Bruce, Roger, Liza, Andrew, and Anne. When her husband died in 1993, she moved to Ladue, Missouri. In 1992, their eldest son, John, was outed as gay by Queer Week magazine. Schlafly acknowledged that John is gay, but stated that he embraces his mother's views. Andrew is also a lawyer and activist, and created the wiki-based Conservapedia. Anne married the only child of Nobel-winning scientists Carl and Gerty Cori.
Schlafly's published works include:
- A Choice Not an Echo (Pere Marquette Press, 1964) ISBN 0-686-11486-8
- Grave Diggers (with Chester Ward) (Pere Marquette Press, 1964) ISBN 0-934640-03-3
- Strike from Space: A Megadeath Mystery (Pere Marquette Press, 1965) ISBN 80-7507-634-6
- Safe Not Sorry (Pere Marquette Press, 1967) ISBN 0-934640-06-8
- The Betrayers (Pere Marquette Press, 1968) ISBN B0006CY0CQ
- Mindszenty the Man (with Josef Vecsey) (Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, 1972) ISBN B00005WGD6
- Kissinger on the Couch (Arlington House Publishers, 1974) ISBN 0-87000-216-3
- Ambush at Vladivostok, with Chester Ward (Pere Marquette Press, 1976) ISBN 0-934640-00-9
- The Power of the Positive Woman (Crown Pub, 1977) ISBN 0-87000-373-9
- The Power of the Christian Woman (Standard Pub, 1981) ISBN B0006E4X12
- The End of an Era (Regnery Publishing, 1982) ISBN 0-89526-659-8
- Equal Pay for UNequal Work (Eagle Forum, 1984) ISBN 99950-3-143-4
- Child Abuse in the Classroom (Crossway Books, 1984) ISBN 0-89107-365-5
- Pornography's Victims (Crossway Books, 1987) ISBN 0-89107-423-6
- Who Will Rock the Cradle?: The Battle for Control of Child Care in America (World Publications, 1989) ISBN 978-0849931987
- First Reader (Pere Marquette Press, 1994) ISBN 0-934640-24-6
- Turbo Reader (Pere Marquette Press, 2001) ISBN 0-934640-16-5
- Feminist Fantasies, foreword by Ann Coulter (Spence Publishing Company, 2003) ISBN 1-890626-46-5
- The Supremacists: The Tyranny of Judges And How to Stop It (Spence Publishing Company, 2004) ISBN 1-890626-55-4
- Judicial Tyranny: The New Kings of America? – contributing author (Amerisearch, 2005) ISBN 0-9753455-6-7
- The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know—and Men Can't Say (WorldNetDaily, 2011) ISBN 978-1935071273
- No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom (Regnery Publishing, 2012) ISBN 978-1621570127
- Who Killed the American Family? (WND Books, 2014) ISBN 978-1938067525
- A Choice Not an Echo: Updated and Expanded 50th Anniversary Edition (Regnery Publishing, 2014) ISBN 978-1621573159
- How the Republican Party Became Pro-Life (Dunrobin Publishing, 2016) ISBN 978-0-9884613-9-0
- The Conservative Case for Trump – posthumously, with Ed Martin and Brett M. Decker (Regnery Publishing, 2016) ISBN 978-1-62157-628-0
In popular culture
Phyllis Schlafly is mentioned extensively in the 7th episode of the 3rd season of the comedy TV series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, titled "Marvelous Radio". Set in 1960, the episode sees Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) agreeing to participate in a live radio commercial for Schlafly. Initially, Midge is enthusiastic towards the prospect of supporting a woman running for Congress. However, after learning about her views, which are portrayed as ultra-conservative and antisemitic, she changes her mind and refuses to speak her part, while already at the recording studio with the broadcast about to start.
The FX miniseries Mrs. America also partially focuses on Schlafly's life and activism, with Cate Blanchett portraying Schlafly. Though some praise the series for its accuracy, Schlafly's family members, among other critics, dispute the accuracy of several accounts in the series.
- 1964 (film)
- Mrs. America, a TV miniseries based on Schlafly and her role on the Equal Rights Amendment; Schlafly is played by Cate Blanchett.
- Mary Whitehouse, British conservative activist
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- 1919 Gould's St. Louis City Directory.
- Profile of Andrew F. Stewart, in Men of West Virginia, Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago: 1903. pp. 157–158.
- 1902–03 City Directory, Huntington, WV and 1910 Federal Census (Virginia), Alleghany County, Clifton Forge, ED126, Sheet 9A and note 1.
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- "Nation: Anti-ERA Evangelist Wins Again". Time. July 3, 1978. Archived from the original on January 21, 2011.
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- "Equal Rights Plan and Abortion Are Opposed by 15,000 at Rally". Archived from the original on July 23, 2018. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
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- "Lisa Levenstein – HIS – UNCG". Archived from the original on December 10, 2015. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
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- Deborah L. Rhode (2009). Justice and Gender: Sex Discrimination and the Law. Harvard UP. pp. 66–67. ISBN 9780674042674. Archived from the original on January 2, 2016. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
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- Bennett, Drake (November 25, 2007). "The amero conspiracy". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on February 25, 2009. Retrieved February 20, 2009.
- Phyllis Schlafly, "Communist Master Plan for 1961", Cardinal Mindszenty Newsletter, February 15, 1961.
- Dana Milbank (April 9, 2005). "And the Verdict on Justice Kennedy Is: Guilty". Washington Post. p. A03. Archived from the original on May 26, 2017. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
- "Schlafly: Obama Would Be Foolish to Leave Supreme Court Without a Veteran". Prnewswire.com. Archived from the original on October 15, 2012. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
- Leith, Sam (January 17–18, 2009). "Obama's Oratory". Financial Times. Archived from the original on January 8, 2010.
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- Jacobs, Jennifer (December 4, 2011). "Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly endorses Michele Bachmann". The Des Moines Register. Retrieved December 6, 2011.[permanent dead link]
- Levy, Pema (February 3, 2012). "Phyllis Schlafly Will Vote For Santorum" (Livewire). TPM. Archived from the original on October 2, 2017. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
... planning to vote for Rick Santorum
- Ward, Jon (January 20, 2016). "The Trump supporter who matters more to Iowa conservatives than Palin". Yahoo! Politics. Archived from the original on January 20, 2016. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
And she's willing to take a chance with someone who's going to shake things up.
- Pfeiffer, Alex (April 11, 2016). "Phyllis Schlafly Pushes Own Daughter to Resign Amid Cruz-Trump Split". Daily Caller. Archived from the original on April 16, 2016. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
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When you're 91 and you're not out with the grass roots all the time, it is very much taking advantage of someone.
- Schlafly, Phyllis; Martin, Ed; Decker, Brett M. (September 6, 2016). The Conservative Case for Trump. Regnery Publishing. p. 272. ISBN 978-1621576280.
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