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IPFS News Link • Death

Phyllis Stewart Schlafly, 1924-2016


Phyllis Schlafly, the St. Louis-born American intellectual who grew from a shy and beautiful girl to become one of the most influential political activists of the 20th and 21st century, died today, Monday, September 5, 2016 according to Eagle Forum.

Schlafly has written or co-written more than 20 books, on military policy, education, legal and social issues. Her first book, "A Choice, Not an Echo," is credited with winning Barry Goldwater the Republican nomination for president and inspiring the conservative movement that eventually led to Ronald Reagan's presidency. Her military work was a major factor in Reagan's' decision to proceed with High Frontier technology.

Since 1967, Schlafly has published the Phyllis Schlafly Report and in 1972, Schlafly founded The Eagle Forum, which grew to nearly 100,000 members. Her syndicated column appeared in 100 newspapers, her radio commentaries were broadcast on more than 400 stations, and her radio talk show, "Eagle Forum Live," was broadcast on 45 stations and the Internet. Throughout her career, Schlafly gave college speeches – including in January 2009, in her still-spry 80's, when, at a Berkeley speech, she fell and broke a hip.

She was appointed by President Reagan to serve on the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution from 1985-1991. For years, Schlafly was the National Defense Chairman of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Over the years, Schlafly testified before more than 50 congressional and state legislative committees on constitutional, national defense, and family issues. She has been a delegate at every Republican National Convention since 1956. The Ladies' Home Journal named Schlafly one of the 100 most important women of the 20th century.

Phyllis McAlpin Stewart was born in 1924 in St. Louis to John Bruce Stewart and Odile Dodge.

She was raised Republican and Catholic – though one great grandfather was a Presbyterian. Her father lost his job as a salesman of industrial equipment during the Depression and was unable to find work again for years, during which time he invented and patented the rotary engine. Schlafly's mother went to work as a schoolteacher and librarian, allowing Schlafly and her younger sister, Odile, to attend a Catholic girls school.

She was valedictorian of her high school class and won a full scholarship to a Catholic women's college, but decided it was not challenging enough, so she worked her way through Washington University. With no scholarship money, Schlafly earned spare money as a model and also as a machine-gunner at a St. Louis ordnance plant -- at that time the world's largest.

She earned straight A's from Washington University and graduated a year early, Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Sigma Alpha (the National Political Science Honor Society). Her undergraduate political science professor wrote that her "intellectual capacity is extraordinary and her analytical ability is distinctly remarkable . . . I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that [Schlafly] is the most capable woman student we have had in this department in ten years."

Schlafly then attended Harvard graduate school on a scholarship, earning a Masters degree in political science in seven months. She received A's in constitutional law, international law, and public administration, and an A- in modern political theory. (And this was long before "Everyone-Gets-An-A" grade inflation.)

Though Harvard Law School did not admit women, Schlafly's professors urged her to stay and attend law school. Alternatively, they proposed that she earn her doctorate. (Imagine the Harvard faculty meetings if she had stayed on and become a professor there!)

Her constitutional law professor at Harvard called her "brilliant" -- and consider that this was back when Harvard was a serious place, so it meant something. The professor who intervened on her behalf, Benjamin Wright, was a distinguished constitutional historian -- the sort of legitimate scholar who probably wouldn't have a chance of being hired by today's Harvard.

Schlafly said "no thanks" to Harvard Law and instead went to Washington, D.C. for a year, where she worked at the precursor institution to the American Enterprise Institute. It was the only time this monumental American political figure lived in the nation's capitol.

After D.C, she returned to Missouri in 1949, married Republican lawyer Fred Schlafly, and raised six amazingly accomplished children in Alton, Illinois, where she lived until Fred's death in 1994.

In 1977, when being harangued by Dr. Joyce Brothers on the Merv Griffin Show, Schlafly mistakenly claimed Harvard Law School had been admitting women since at least 1945 and said she knew that because she almost went there. In fact, Harvard Law School did not begin admitting women for another several years. But in 1945, Harvard was prepared to make an exception for Phyllis Schlafly.

Years later, when Schlafly was testifying against the Equal Rights Amendment, the woman who almost became the first woman ever to graduate from Harvard Law School was ridiculed by potty little state legislators for not having a law degree. Senator Birch Bayh (D-IN), for example, called her one of those "women with absolutely no legal training stand there brandishing law books, telling people what ERA 'really' means."

So in 1976, at age 51, while writing her syndicated column, raising six children, defeating the E.R.A. -- and in the middle of writing an 800-page book assailing Henry Kissinger -- Schlafly went to Washington University Law School in St. Louis. She graduated near the top of her class and won the award in Administrative Law.

Though Schlafly is most famously associated with her stunning, nearly miraculous, defeat of the E.R.A., she has played a pivotal role in a broad range of political controversies for more than half a century.

Schlafly managed her first congressional campaign in 1946, at age 22. The year after she married, she ran for Congress herself, losing to a popular Democratic incumbent. She ran and lost again against another popular Democratic incumbent in 1970. These may be the only quixotic battles she failed to win.

During 1970 congressional race, her opponent ceaselessly sneered that Schlafly should be home raising her children. Schlafly responded: "My opponent says a woman's place is in the home. But my husband replies, a woman's place is in the House -- the U.S. House of Representatives." Today, feminists think they invented that line.

In 1964, she wrote "A Choice, Not An Echo," which sold an astounding three million copies. (The average nonfiction book sells 5,000 copies; the average New York Times bestseller sells 30,000 copies.) This book would change the Republican Party forever. In this respect, it was not unlike many battles Schlafly would wage: First, she would conquer the Republican Party, then she could conquer the nation.

"A Choice, Not An Echo," is widely credited with handing Barry Goldwater the Republican nomination for president. Goldwater lost badly in the general election -- but the Republican Party would never be the same. Goldwater's nomination began the retreat of sell-out, Northeastern "Rockefeller Republicans" -- who wanted to wreck the country with slightly less alacrity than the Democrats.

Without Schlafly, without that book and that candidacy, it is unlikely that Ronald Reagan would ever have been elected president.

Later in 1964, she collaborated with Admiral Chester Ward on another book, "The Gravediggers." This book accused the elite foreign policy establishment of cheerfully selling out the nation's military superiority to the Soviet Union. It sold an astounding 2 million copies.

Also with Ward, Schlafly co-authored the extremely influential (and extremely long, at over 800 pages) "Kissinger on the Couch" methodically assailing Kissinger's foreign policy. As with her crusade against the E.R.A. -- being waged simultaneously -- "Kissinger on the Couch" would turn conventional wisdom upside down.

Until then, attacking Kissinger's beloved Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty (SALT) was the secular version of challenging the Pope on infallibility -- or, I suppose, challenging a proposed constitutional amendment that purported to give women "equal rights." But she was right, she was persuasive, and she overturned popular opinion.

Indeed, Schlafly has written prolifically about American foreign policy and military affairs, writing extensively about ICBMs and defense treaties. She was an early and vigorous proponent of a missile defense shield.

Meanwhile, feminists engaged in cliffhanger debates about whether it was appropriate for feminists to wear lipstick.

That Phyllis Schlafly is the mortal enemy of a movement that claims to promote women tells you all you need to know about the feminists. That many people alive today are unaware of Schlafly's achievements tells you all you need to know about the American media.