Phyllis McAlpin Stewart Schlafly (/ /; born August 15, 1924) is an American constitutional lawyer, conservative activist, author, and speaker and founder of the Eagle Forum. She is known for her staunch social and political conservatism, her opposition to modern feminism, and her successful campaign against the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Her 1964 book A Choice, Not an Echo was issued in millions of copies as an attack on Republican Governor Nelson Rockefeller and the Eastern Republican Establishment. She co-authored books on national defense and was highly critical of arms-control agreements with the Soviet Union. Schlafly founded the Eagle Forum in the 1970s and the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund, St. Louis. As of 2013[update], she remained the president of both organizations and maintained a presence on the lecture circuit. Since 1967, she has published a newsletter, the Phyllis Schlafly Report.
- Early life
- Activism and political efforts
- Honorary degree and protests
- Published works
Schlafly's great-grandfather Stewart, a Presbyterian, came 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, John Bruce Stewart, was a machinist and salesman of industrial equipment, principally for Westinghouse. He became unemployed in 1932 during the Great Depression and could not find permanent work until World War II. He was granted a patent in 1944 for a rotary engine.
Schlafly's mother, Odile, was the daughter of attorney Ernest C. Dodge. She attended college and graduate school. Before her marriage, she worked as a teacher at a private girls' school in St. Louis. During the Depression Schlafly's mother went back to work as a librarian and a school teacher to support her family.
On October 20, 1949, when she was 25 years old, Phyllis married attorney John Fred Schlafly, Jr.; he died in 1993. He came from a well-to-do St. Louis family. His grandfather, August, emigrated 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. These Schlafly brothers later sold that business and concentrated on banking and other businesses that made them wealthy. They were both active Catholics. Phyllis and her husband linked Catholicism to Americanism and often exhorted Catholics to join the anti-Communist crusade.
Schlafly and her husband moved to Alton, Illinois, and had six children: John, Bruce, Roger, Liza, Andrew and Anne. 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.
Schlafly is the aunt of conservative anti-feminist author Suzanne Venker, together they wrote The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know – and Men Can't Say.
Schlafly was christened Phyllis McAlpin Stewart and brought up as a Roman Catholic in St. Louis, Missouri, where she was born. During the Depression, Schlafly's father went into long-term unemployment, and her mother entered the labor market. Mrs. Stewart was able to keep the family afloat and maintained Phyllis in a Catholic girls' school.
Schlafly started college early and worked as a model for a time. She earned her A.B. Phi Beta Kappa from Washington University, in St. Louis in 1944. She received a master of arts degree in Government from Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1945. In her 1966 book, Strike From Space (1965), Schlafly notes that she worked as "a ballistics gunner and technician at the largest ammunition plant in the world" during World War II. She earned a J.D. from Washington University Law School in St. Louis in 1978.
Activism and political efforts
In 1946, Schlafly became a researcher for the American Enterprise Institute and worked in the successful United States House of Representatives’ campaign of Claude I. Bakewell.
In 1952, Schlafly ran for Congress as a Republican in the majority Democratic 24th congressional district of Illinois but lost to Democrat Charles Melvin Price. Schlafly's campaign was low-budget and promoted heavily through the local print media, and local entrepreneurs John M. and Spencer Olin as well as Texas oil billionaire H. L. Hunt donated to her campaign. She also attended her first Republican National Convention that year and continued to attend each following convention. As part of the Illinois delegation of the 1952 Republican convention, Schlafly endorsed 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" against Richard Nixon's stance (as the New York Times puts it) "against segregation and discrimination."
She came to national attention when millions of copies of her self-published book, A Choice, Not an Echo, were distributed in support of Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign, especially in the hotly fought California 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.
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.
Schlafly joined the John Birch Society, but quit because she thought that the main Communist threats to the nation were external rather than internal. In 1970, she ran unsuccessfully for a House of Representatives seat in Illinois against Democratic incumbent George E. Shipley.
Opposition to an Equal Rights Amendment
Schlafly became an outspoken opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment during the 1970s as the organizer of the "STOP ERA" campaign. STOP is an acronym for "Stop Taking Our Privileges." Schlafly argued that the ERA would take away gender specific privileges currently enjoyed by women, including "dependent wife" benefits under Social Security and the exemption from Selective Service registration.
In 1972, when Schlafly began her efforts against the Equal Rights Amendment, it had already been ratified by 28 of the necessary 38 states. She organized a campaign to oppose further ratification. Five more states ratified ERA after Schlafly began her opposition campaign; however, five states rescinded their ratifications. The last state to ratify was Indiana, where then State Senator Wayne Townsend cast the tie-breaking vote for ratification in January 1977. Schlafly argued that "the ERA would lead to women being drafted by the military and to public unisex bathrooms." She was opposed by groups such as, National Organization for Women (NOW) and the ERAmerica coalition. To counter Schlafly's Stop ERA campaign, the Homemakers' Equal Rights Association was formed.
The Equal Rights Amendment was narrowly defeated, having only achieved ratification in 35 of the 38 states needed (30, subtracting the five that rescinded ratification). Experts agree that Schlafly was a key player. Political scientist Jane J. Mansbridge in her history of the ERA concludes:
- 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 see her advocacy against equal rights and her role as a working professional as a contradiction. Gloria Steinem and author Pia de Solenni, among others, have noted what they consider irony in Schlafly's role as an advocate for the full-time mother and wife, while being herself a lawyer, editor of a monthly newsletter, regular speaker at anti-liberal rallies, and political activist. In her review of Schlafly's Feminist Fantasies, de Solenni writes that "Schlafly's discussion reveals a paradox. She was able to have it all: family and career. And she did it by fighting those who said they were trying to get it all for her.…Happiness resulted from being a wife and mother and working with her husband to reach their goals," not in helping other women and families reach their own.
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. Then in 1983, Schlafly began creating syndicated daily 3-minute commentaries for radio In 1989, Schlafly began hosting a weekly radio talk show, Eagle Forum Live.
Equal Rights Amendment
Schlafly focused opposition to the ERA on traditional gender roles, such as only men should do the fighting in wartime. She pointed out that the amendment would eliminate the men-only draft requirement and guarantee the possibility that women would be subject to conscription and be required to have military combat roles in future wars. Defense of traditional gender roles prove to be a useful tactic. In Illinois her activists used traditional symbols of the American housewife. They took homemade bread, jams, and apple pies 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."
According to historian Lisa Levenstein, the feminist movement in the late 1970s briefly attempted a program to help older divorced and widowed women. Many widows were ineligible for Social Security benefits, few divorcees actually received any alimony, and after a career as a housewife, few had skills to enter the labor force. The program, however, encountered sharp criticism from young activists who gave priority to poor minority women rather than the middle class. By 1980, NOW downplayed the program as it focused almost exclusively on the ERA. Schlafly moved into the vacuum. She denounced the feminists for abandoning older middle-class widows and divorcees in need, and warned that ERA would equalize the laws for the benefit of man, stripping protections that older women urgently needed. She said the ERA was designed for the benefit of young career women and warned that if men and women had to be treated identically it would threaten the security of middle-aged housewives with no current job skills. The ERA would repeal protections such as alimony and eliminate the tendency for mothers to obtain custody over their children in divorce cases. Her argument that protective laws would be lost resonated with working-class women.
Schlafly told Time magazine in 1978, "I have cancelled speeches whenever my husband thought that I had been away from home too much."
In March 2007, Schlafly said in a speech at Bates College, "By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don't think you can call it rape."
In a March 30, 2006, interview, Schlafly 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 paper diapers.
She called Roe v. Wade "the worst decision in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court" and said that it "is responsible for the killing of millions of unborn babies".
In 2007, while working to defeat a new version of the Equal Rights Amendment, she warned it would force courts to approve same-sex marriages and deny Social Security benefits for housewives and widows.
United Nations and international relations
In college in 1945, Schlafly applauded[how?] the establishment of the United Nations. Over the years, however, she has disdained the UN. On the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995, Schlafly 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. Schlafly noted that Balkan nations have fought one another for 500 years and 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.
In 1961, Schlafly wrote that "[arms control] will not stop Red aggression any more than disarming our local police will stop murder, theft, and rape."
Schlafly has been an outspoken critic of what she terms "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, since 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 has spoken out against Mike Huckabee, who, she says, as governor left the Republican Party in Arkansas "in shambles". She has hosted at the Eagle Forum U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado, known for his opposition to illegal immigration. Before his election she criticised 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 primary of the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, citing Bachmann's work against "ObamaCare" and deficit spending and her (Bachmann's) support of "traditional values."
On February 3 Schlafly announced that she would be voting for Rick Santorum in the 2012 Missouri Republican primary.
Schlafly opposes 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 believes the Republican Party should reject immigration reform proposals, and 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," she said. "There’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 Board of Trustees of Washington University in St. Louis announced that Schlafly would be presented an honorary degree at the school's 2008 commencement ceremony. This was immediately met with objection by some students and faculty at the university who accused her of being anti-feminist and criticized her work on defeating the equal rights amendment. Fourteen university law professors wrote in a complaint letter that Schlafly's career demonstrated "anti-intellectualism in pursuit of a political agenda." While the Board of Trustees' honorary degree committee approved the honorees unanimously, five student members of the committee wrote to complain that they had to vote on the five honorees as a slate, in the final stage of the voting and feel the selection of Schlafly was a mistake. In the days leading up to the commencement ceremony, Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton explained the university’s Board of Trustees' decision to award Schlafly’s degree with the following statement:
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 a Doctor of Humane Letters degree. A protest to rescind Schlafly's honorary degree received support from faculty and students. During the ceremony, hundreds of the 14,000 attendees, including one third of the graduating students and some faculty, silently stood and turned their backs to Schlafly in protest. In the days leading up to the commencement there were several protests regarding her degree award; Schlafly described these protesters as "a bunch of losers." In addition, she stated after the ceremony that the protesters were "juvenile" and that, "I'm not sure they're mature enough to graduate." As planned, Schlafly did not give any speech during the commencement ceremony, nor did any of the other honorees except for commencement speaker Chris Matthews.
Schlafly is the author of 23 books on subjects ranging from child care to phonics education. She writes a syndicated weekly newspaper column for Creators Syndicate.
Schlafly's published works include:
- A Choice Not an Echo: Updated and Expanded 50th Anniversary Edition (Regnery Publishing, 2014) ISBN 978-1621573159
- Who Killed the American Family? (WND Books, 2014) ISBN 978-1938067525
- No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom (Regnery Publishing, 2012) ISBN 978-1621570127
- The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know -- and Men Can't Say (WorldNetDaily, 2011) ISBN 978-1935071273
- Judicial Tyranny: The New Kings of America? – contributing author (Amerisearch, 2005) ISBN 0-9753455-6-7
- The Supremacists: The Tyranny of Judges And How to Stop It (Spence Publishing Company, 2004) ISBN 1-890626-55-4
- Feminist Fantasies, foreword by Ann Coulter (Spence Publishing Company, 2003) ISBN 1-890626-46-5
- Turbo Reader (Pere Marquette Press, 2001) ISBN 0-934640-16-5
- First Reader (Pere Marquette Press, 1994) ISBN 0-934640-24-6
- Pornography's Victims (Crossway Books, 1987) ISBN 0-89107-423-6
- Child Abuse in the Classroom (Crossway Books, 1984) ISBN 0-89107-365-5
- Equal Pay for UNequal Work (Eagle Forum, 1984) ISBN 99950-3-143-4
- The End of an Era (Regnery Publishing, 1982) ISBN 0-89526-659-8
- The Power of the Christian Woman (Standard Pub, 1981) ISBN B0006E4X12
- The Power of the Positive Woman (Crown Pub, 1977) ISBN 0-87000-373-9
- Ambush at Vladivostok, with Chester Ward (Pere Marquette Press, 1976) ISBN 0-934640-00-9
- Kissinger on the Couch (Arlington House Publishers, 1974) ISBN 0-87000-216-3
- Mindszenty the Man (with Josef Vecsey) (Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, 1972) ISBN B00005WGD6
- The Betrayers (Pere Marquette Press, 1968) ISBN B0006CY0CQ
- Safe Not Sorry (Pere Marquette Press, 1967) ISBN 0-934640-06-8
- Strike from Space: A Megadeath Mystery (Pere Marquette Press, 1965) ISBN 80-7507-634-6
- Grave Diggers (with Chester Ward) (Pere Marquette Press, 1964) ISBN 0-934640-03-3
- A Choice Not an Echo (Pere Marquette Press, 1964) ISBN 0-686-11486-8