I am very sad to report the passing of one of my living heroes, Phyllis Schlafly, on September 5 due to a long bout with cancer. She was the first lady of the conservative movement and the Founder and President of National Eagle Forum. Her books, articles, speeches, and leadership have long been an inspiration for me and so many others in the volunteer work we do, supporting biblical values and constitutional principles in the public arena.
Phyllis was a brilliant scholar, an author, a housewife, a mother of six and an amazing community organizer. She was able to pull together and train people of various faiths, creating a large workforce of volunteers and a conservative voting block of values voters. I love that she called her political work her hobby! It’s mine, too.
Phyllis grew up in St. Louis and graduated at age 19 from Washington University, while working nights at a munitions factory test-firing guns! She earned a scholarship to Radcliffe and received her master’s degree in political science nine months later. She had hoped to get a government job but instead, she went to work for a conservative think tank in Washington DC. Then she moved back to St. Louis to get involved in a political campaign and other endeavors.
At age 24 she met Fred Schlafly, a politically engaged, conservative lawyer. They were married in 1949 and started their family. Phyllis was a nurturing mother who taught all her children to read before they ever started to school. Nearly 30 years later, in 1978 Phyllis earned a Juris Doctor degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
After they married, Phyllis and Fred initially led grassroots campaigns against international Communism during the ’50s. They were very active in numerous political campaigns. Then in 1962 the Supreme Court gave an opinion which prohibited state-sponsored prayer in public schools. This ruling became a catalyst in promoting secular humanist cultural transformations throughout our nation.
During the ‘70s, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was moving forward. This was a feminist movement which became a battle between women over gender roles and family values. The Amendment had passed both houses of Congress and was ratified by 35 states. Phyllis saw this amendment as a means of actually stripping women of many privileges which benefit them, their children and their families. (This was one of the 45 goals of the Communist agenda as presented to the Congressional Record Jan. 10, 1963—to break down the family structure by discrediting the family as an institution, encourage promiscuity and easy divorce, and emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents.) The amendment would have barred any gender-based distinctions in federal and state laws. Due primarily to the tireless work of Phyllis and her ability to mobilize many other volunteers, the ERA failed to be ratified by enough states to pass.
In 1973 Phyllis mobilized again after the Supreme Court legalized abortion. Many conservatives saw this as a further decline in the country’s moral values and a major violation of the constitutional right to life. Following the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, many of the volunteers Phyllis trained became leaders in Eagle Forum, the organization inspired by Isaiah 40:31:
“But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”
Phyllis’ energy and zeal was amazing! She founded Eagle Forum in 1975, a powerful arm of the conservative, pro-life, pro-family movement, with many state and local chapters across the nation. She wrote or edited over 27 books, published a monthly newsletter, and provided daily commentaries on nearly 500 radio stations. She attended every National Republican Party Convention since 1952 and powerfully influenced many of the conservative platform planks.
Phyllis was a strong supporter of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights and was an outspoken critic of activist judges who step out of their proper roles to legislate from the bench. (Legislators are elected to make the laws, the executive branch carries out and enforces the laws, while the judicial branch should only interpret the meaning of the laws, apply laws to individual cases and decide if laws violate the constitution.)
Eunie Smith, President of the Eagle Forum of Alabama and First Vice President of National Eagle Forum, sums it up well. “For decades under Phyllis’ leadership, Eagle Forum has led the pro-family movement through such diverse and important battles as defending the unborn, defending traditional marriage, defending American workers from unfair trade and immigration policies, defending individual inventors from losing their intellectual property to large corporations, defending women from being drafted into military combat, defending full-time homemakers, defending conservatives and grassroots activists from establishment kingmakers, defending children from politicized public education, defending American taxpayers from out-of-control federal spending and defending against threats to American exceptionalism.”
Phyllis Schlafly has left behind a lifetime legacy of biblical values. She courageously articulated them with grace, a touch of humor and lots of common sense. Phyllis was a great stateswoman and she will be sorely missed by so many.
Indeed, those who wait upon the Lord will “mount up with wings like eagles.”
Montgomery Co. Eagle Forum