The Life of Phyllis Schlafly

Phyllis Schlafly died on September 5, 2016 at the age of 92. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1924.

From a New York Times book review written in 2006 Judith Warner commented:

“In many ways, Phyllis Schlalfy, née Stewart, would seem an unlikely candidate for a life spent on the antifeminist front lines. She was raised in St. Louis by a working mother who kept her family afloat after her husband lost his job in the Great Depression. She was encouraged to excel academically by both her parents, who, Critchlow writes, believed “their daughters should not be any less ambitious or educated than boys.”

Schlafly received a four-year scholarship to a local Roman Catholic college, but left after a year because it wasn’t sufficiently challenging. Instead, she decided to pay her own way through Washington University by taking on a full-time job firing rifles and machine guns to test ammunition at the St. Louis Ordnance Plant. She worked night shifts — 4 p.m. to midnight or midnight to 8 a.m. — and then attended morning classes. She graduated early, made Phi Beta Kappa and called the ordeal “the most wonderful two years of my life, a beautiful experience.”

Schlafly got a master’s degree from Radcliffe, established herself professionally and achieved economic self-sufficiency, then married a St. Louis man with whom she bonded intellectually. (They took an extra suitcase of books along for the honeymoon.) Comfortably settled in a mansion in Fairmount, Ill., she had six children and rose to national prominence, first as an ardent anti-Communist, then as an antifeminist crusader.”

Born in 1924 Schlafly was born shortly after women were granted the right to vote, her childhood then was during the Great Depression, then her young adulthood was when World War II was going on. In terms of hardship apparently her father lost his job during the Depression with her mother then having to work to sustain the family. Also apparently her parents were feminist minded enough to encourage their daughters to be as ambitious as boys. For some context in the United States among white married women 9.8% were in the workforce in 1930, 12.5% were in the workforce in 1940, 20.7% were in the workforce in 1950, and 29.8% were in the workforce in 1960. So it was not normal for a white married woman to be working even during the Great Depression. Married women joined the workforce by and large for cultural reasons, not due to economic necessity.

Schlafly was clearly very ambitious in a masculine sense right from the beginning. In 1944 (at age 20) she got her Bachelor’s Degree from Washington University in St. Louis, in 1945 she received her Master’s Degree in Political Science from Radcliffe College, also in 1945 she started her volunteer activism for the Republican Party. In 1946 she became a researcher for the American Enterprise Institute. In 1949 she then got married to John Schlafly, a lawyer from a wealthy family. After marrying Phyllis and John Schlafly then moved to Alton, Illinois. In 1952 she ran for Congress in the 24th congressional district of Illinois and lost. In 1960 Phyllis Schlafly became the President of the Illinois Federation of Republican Women. Then in 1964 Schlafly gained national notoriety with her book “A Choice Not an Echo” advocating for Barry Goldwater.

So was Phyllis Schlafly a feminist or an anti-feminist? Maybe a bit of both? Her behavior was clearly feminist but her beliefs and what she advocated for were anti-feminist, at least anti-feminist compared to the opposition she found herself fighting against. She was a conservative and an anti-communist initially, also a Roman Catholic. Schlafly did not focus on feminism as a foe until the Equal Rights Amendment passed Congress in 1972. Then she set up the STOP ERA committee in September 1972 to prevent the Equal Rights Amendment from being adopted.

There were many conservative activist Republican women before the ERA emerged as a threat to rally against, it was not just Phyllis Schlafly. As Kristina Marie Graves relates in her thesis “Stop Taking Our Privileges! The Anti-ERA Movement in Georgia, 1978-1982”, page 33:

“This political culture [the grassroots conservative movement] led to the rise of a conservative movement and the nomination of Barry Goldwater for presidential candidacy at the 1964 Republican Convention. Though Goldwater was soundly defeated by Lyndon Johnson, the network of conservative voters and organizations he inspired would contribute to the election of Ronald Reagan, a staunch California conservative, as president in 1980.

It is these roots that conservative women, such as Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the STOP ERA Committee, used to create a national grassroots campaign against the ratification of the ERA. According to McGirr, women were “very much a part of the constituency of the Right” and “overrepresented among the rank and file of the movement.” McGirr goes on to state that, in the early 1960s, women were much more active in grassroots conservatism than the men in their lives and were often responsible for “becoming involved and then bringing their husbands into the cause.” However, while some anti-feminists were not previously involved in politics before their activism in the anti-ERA campaign, a number of women involved in the anti-ERA movement had political experience on the local and state level. This gave them a significant advantage when it came time to ratify the ERA from state to state. In contrast, the feminist movement was more experienced with national politics and did not have a good grasp of the complexity of local grassroots politics.”

In the debate over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s it was mostly feminist women arguing against anti-feminist women in the public square. Men’s voices or opinions were not welcomed in the debate, the ERA being a “woman’s issue” so to speak. A woman such as Phyllis Schlafly had to be the leader of the anti-ERA fight as opposition against the ERA would only be “legitimate” coming from women on behalf of women. The main argument against the ERA was that it would take protections and privileges away from women thereby harming women; women’s interests being the primary concern for both the pro-ERA and the anti-ERA women.

The overall cultural mindset in the 1970s was already feminist or female supremacist; that it was men’s job to do what women want and to make women happy so that if women wanted the ERA then women were entitled to their so called “Equal Rights Amendment.” The only politically viable counter to the momentum that the ERA had at the beginning would be a women’s movement against the ERA attacking the ERA as being anti-woman; against women’s privileges and protections. This being what Phyllis Schlafly’s STOP ERA (Stop Taking Our Privileges) movement was.

Thankfully the battle against the ERA succeeded so the feminist invented notion of “equal rights” is not contaminating the Constitution at least. This is the great accomplishment of Phyllis Schlafly’s life.

Women like Phyllis Schlafly slowed down the momentum of feminism but they did not stop the progression of feminism. The period from 1960 to 1995 was the period of the most rapid family breakdown; the defeat of the ERA basically coming in 1977 when the last state to ratify the amendment ratified the amendment. It was not until the Republican Revolution of 1994 that family breakdown slowed down.

So what about this phenomenon of the political activist highly ambitious anti-feminist woman? Most definitely America needed Phyllis Schlafly and her army of anti-ERA activist women to stop the ERA from being enacted because men being the force against the ERA would have never been tolerated. Still women being the ones to tell men how best to treat women is the very essence of female supremacy and feminism. It is like female supremacy was simply a given or automatically assumed in the ERA debate, the only question was whether female supremacy is best served in a traditional way as Phyllis Schlafly argued or whether female supremacy is best served in a feminist way as the feminists argued.

Most definitely the ERA is a bad idea because certainly the law should discriminate between men and women but gender based discrimination is good in its own right, not because women approve of certain forms of gender discrimination that benefit women. God or the natural order of things is the authority regarding whether certain forms of gender discrimination are good or not, not the woman herself. Gender discrimination is intrinsically good as an objective truth or an objective reality.

The issue of religion is interesting regarding the battle over the ERA. Gregory L. Schneider states in his article “Conservative’s Founding Mother”:

“Both STOP-ERA and the National Organization for Women (NOW) had similar memberships. The majority of both organizations consisted of college graduates, and both groups had women of similar income levels. Feminists tended to be younger, and there was a prevalence of single and divorced women in NOW. But the fundamental distinction between the two organizations was religious. “A remarkable 98 percent of anti-ERA supporters,” Critchlow writes, “claimed church membership, while only 31 to 48 percent of pro-ERA supporters did.” It is not wrong to claim that STOP-ERA was the backbone of today’s social conservative politics.”

The feminist activists and the anti-feminist activists had similar education levels and income levels; the feminists however were more likely to be divorced or single, more likely to be younger (meaning born later, born at a later stage of feminist advancement and family breakdown), and most strikingly were much more likely to be non-religious, disconnected from an idea of an objective reality governed by God that they are bound to obey.

Towards the end of her life Phyllis Schlafly spoke out against VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act) sounding a lot like an MRA (Men’s Rights Activist) in her criticisms of VAWA. She also endorsed Donald Trump for president on March 11, 2016.

It is quite a remarkable life that she led. America definitely needed her, a woman to fight against feminism, taking on the masculine duty to uphold the family that men shamefully abandoned forcing women to do the fighting for them in their place.
Phyllis Schlafly – Wikipedia entry
Marriage is Masculinity and Coverture
A Choice Not an Echo – Page 2 and Page 117
Stop Taking Our Privileges! The Anti-ERA Movement in Georgia, 1978-1982 – Page 33 and Page 49
Stop Taking Our Privileges – Google Books Search
Equal Rights Amendment – Wikipedia entry
Phyllis Schlafly endorses Trump in St. Louis

About Jesse Powell TFA

Anti-Feminist, MRA, Pro-Traditional Women's Rights Traditional Family Activist (TFA)
This entry was posted in Gender Politics Analysis, Research and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Life of Phyllis Schlafly

  1. Crystal says:

    Ironically enough, it was *because of* feminism that Phyllis Schlafly could become a lawyer in the first place. Kind of reminds me of women advocating for Sharia; it’s all in the same boat when it comes to willingness to be run roughshod over by patriarchal belief systems 😦

    • FamilyFirst says:

      That’s not true. There were female lawyers long before feminism emerged. Often times, feminists like to take credit for all of women’s accomplishments and successes when it simply isn’t true. That would be like MRAs taking credit for the labor and union movements plus all of the scientific achievements of men by claiming “first-wave MRA” and “second-wave MRA” movements, which provided all men the opportunities they needed to succeed. The truth is that throughout history, there have been many movements to provide voting rights, educational opportunities, labor rights, civil rights and so on. One movement can’t take all of the credit for the progress and achievements of all humans.

  2. Crystal says:

    Why do women feel the need to suppress themselves? No, I’m not out to criticise traditional-minded women (in fact I find debating them and their ideas rather interesting, as people) but rather the ideas that encourage women to see themselves as second-rate, compared to men. AFAIK no ethnic minority has ever felt the need to push themselves down for the white people and women shouldn’t either. For instance I think if you tried to get black people to adopt a traditional = white supremacist mindset on slavery they would rightfully express outrage. But women? Why, Fifty Shades should tell it all; women WANT Christian Grey (aka a serial rapist and abuser) to come rescue them from their lifeless marriages and boss them around. Female converts to Islam tend to become more radical than their born-Muslim counterparts to the point of promoting FGM and wearing burkas. Women readily – and willingly it seems – imbibe ideas that their bodies are dirty and worthy only of the male gaze, influencing them to think negatively of their bodies to the point where they seek no cure for their ailments (as evidenced by menstrual problems, tokophobia, etc), leading them to adopt eating disorders or pushing themselves and other women to get involved in Christian extremist religions where they pop out kids for God and think they’re not worthy of anything else. In some cases it’s the women who are the worst suppressors!

    • FamilyFirst says:

      I don’t see women feeling the need to suppress themselves. In fact, women express themselves more often than men do. Women usually don’t see themselves as being second-rate to men; in fact, they often claim they have the right to benefit from men’s accomplishments.

      And what about black supremacism, which exists in Africa today? Slavery existed in Africa long before white men ever got there and is still the place where slavery exists at alarming levels. No, blacks don’t put themselves down when it comes to the white supremacist mindset on slavery (and they shouldn’t) but they sure put themselves down when it comes to the black supremacist mindset on slavery.

      Blacks don’t seem upset at slavery in Africa today or the fact that blacks kill way more blacks than whites do. Also, more whites are killed by blacks than blacks killed by whites. No one cares about that either. So whites see themselves as being second-rate to blacks.

      The problem is that feminism and the black civil rights movement only focus on the bad things that some white men have done and ignore: (1) the suffering that whites have gone through; (2) the great things whites have done; (3) the bad things women and minorities have done.

      Focusing on the problems a particular group has created while ignoring the great things that group has done is racism/sexism. Ignoring the problems that other groups have created while constantly highlighting the problems that a particular group has created is racism/sexism.

      An equal, just, democratic society is not one in which white men are blamed for everything while women and minorities are excused from everything. We must have equal rights and equal responsibilities for all.

  3. Crystal says:


    I am confused as to why you think America needed a woman like her when you seem to indicate that you don’t believe women should be involved in politics. Isn’t this some kind of inconsistency in your worldview, or are you willing to allow feminism … to defeat feminism? Doesn’t make much sense to me.

    The egalitarian worldview doesn’t demand that I use chauvinism … to defeat chauvinism, so if your beliefs are truly right, why do you need feminism, which is in your opinion uniquely evil, to defeat feminism? I’d really appreciate an answer to this question.

    PS: She would have done a better job as a menstrual-rights activist, quite frankly.

  4. FamilyFirst says:

    America and the whole world need people like Phyllis Schlafly because they point out the problems that certain movements create. Many times, movements may start out with great intentions but eventually degenerate into hate movements, which create more problems than solutions. Many feminists like to think that they are actually the “superior movement” that covers all humanitarian issues but that is not true. Women of color, men, working class individuals, religious groups and others have pointed out many problems with feminism, which does consist of sexist and racist elements like all movements do. Checks and balances are needed in a humanitarian society.

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