Phyllis Schlafly, the outspoken conservative activist who helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and founded the Eagle Forum political group, has died. She was 92.
Schlafly died Monday afternoon of cancer at her home in St. Louis, her son John Schlafly said.
Schlafly rose to national attention in 1964 with her self-published book, “A Choice Not an Echo,” that became a manifesto for the far right. The book, which sold three million copies, chronicled the history of the Republican National Convention and is credited for helping conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona earn the 1964 GOP nomination.
She later helped lead efforts to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment that would have outlawed gender discrimination, galvanizing the party’s right. As momentum grew in the 1970s for the amendment, Schlafly became its most outspoken critic — and was vilified by its supporters.
She had a pie smashed into her face and pig’s blood thrown on her, and feminist Betty Friedan once told Schlafly: “I’d like to burn you at the stake.” She was chastised in the comic Doonesbury — a framed copy of which hung on her office wall.
“What I am defending is the real rights of women,” Schlafly said at the time. “A woman should have the right to be in the home as a wife and mother.”
Thirty-five states ratified the amendment, three short of the necessary 38. Schlafly said amendment supporters couldn’t prove it was needed.”They were never able to show women would get any benefit out of it,” she told the AP in 2007. “It (the U.S. Constitution) is already sex-neutral. Women already have all the rights that men have.”
Reaction to her death was deeply polarized along political lines, reflecting the nation’s deep philosophical divide. Those on the right praised her conservative activism:
While those on the left remembered her as an enemy of feminism and other progressive causes, such as LGBT equality.
Well, dang, Phyllis Schlafly died. Hope she doesn’t deny anybody their rights to do anything wherever she’s going.
— liprap (@liprap) September 5, 2016
In a 2007 interview with the AP, Schafly said that perhaps her greatest legacy was the Eagle Forum, which she founded in 1972 in suburban St. Louis, where she lived. The ultraconservative group has chapters in several states and claims 80,000 members.
The Eagle Forum pushes for low taxes, a strong military and English-only education. The group is against efforts it says are pushed by radical feminists or encroach on U.S. sovereignty, such as guest-worker visas, according to its website, which describes the Equal Rights Amendment as having had a “hidden agenda of tax-funded abortions and same-sex marriages.”
Schlafly remained active in conservative politics well into her 80s, when she was still writing a column that appeared in 100 newspapers, doing radio commentaries on more than 460 stations and publishing a monthly newsletter.
Additional reporting by Mashable.