Phyllis Stewart Schlafly, noted author, lecturer, attorney, and political and social activist, was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Raised a Roman Catholic, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Washington University in 1944 while working nights at a munitions factory to support her studies. On a scholarship, Schlafly received a master’s degree from Radcliffe in 1945. After graduation, Schlafly worked as a researcher in Washington, D.C., and ran a successful congressional campaign for an Illinois Republican in 1946. In 1949, she married Fred Schlafly and embarked on what she has called the most important profession of her life, being a wife and mother to her six children.
While caring for her family, Schlafly continued her involvement in social and political matters. She wrote, lectured, and organized on behalf of issues that were of import to her, including politics, women’s rights, national defense, education, family, and child care. In 1964, Schlafly published A Choice Not an Echo, chronicling the history of Republican presidential nominations, which many argue led to the nomination of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. In addition to running for Congress twice, Schlafly began to publish the Phyllis Schlafly Report in 1967, a monthly conservative newsletter. In 1972, she founded the Eagle Forum, a conservative organization committed to influencing public policy and supporting limited government, capitalism, the right to life, traditional marriage, and the Second Amendment.
Schlafly gained greater prominence after Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1972. Supporters of the ERA contended that an amendment to the constitution was needed to create true social, economic, political, and legal equality between the sexes. Motivated by what she believed were attacks on women and their role in the traditional family by radical feminists, Schlafly took up the fight against the ERA. Recognizing that the ERA had garnered national support, Schlafly organized a grassroots, state-to-state campaign to block ratification of the amendment. In 1972, Schlafly founded the National Committee to Stop ERA, which promoted a pro-family, pro-life viewpoint. Schlafly tapped the resources of housewives, mothers, and nonfeminist career women who were not represented in the radical feminist agenda. With her well-organized forces, Schlafly argued in part that the ERA would destroy the traditional role of women and its benefits. She contended that the ERA would force eighteen-yearold women into the draft and wives and mother’s into the workforce, thus compelling mother’s to leave their children in daycare. Schlafly argued that the biological differences between men and women created natural roles for the sexes that should be embraced and honored. In 1978, in the midst of her battle against the ERA, Schlafly graduated from Washington University Law School. Schlafly’s efforts proved successful. By 1982, the deadline for ratification, the Equal Rights Amendment failed to pass in all thirty-eight states needed for ratification.
To this day, Schlafly remains a political and social activist. As president of the Eagle Forum, Schlafly works tirelessly to promote a conservative agenda, still publishing the Phyllis Schlafly Report. She has testified before Congress and state legislatures numerous times, and she frequently lectures and debates on television and radio and at various political and social events.
MARY K. MANKUS
References and Further Reading
See also Equal Rights Amendment