Newspaper article International New York Times

Phyllis Schlafly, Conservative Bane of Feminists, Dies at 92

Newspaper article International New York Times

Phyllis Schlafly, Conservative Bane of Feminists, Dies at 92

Article excerpt

Angered by the cultural transformations of the 1960s, Schlafly led campaigns against Communism, abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment.

Phyllis Schlafly, whose grass-roots campaigns against Communism, abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment galvanized conservatives for almost two generations and helped reshape American politics, died on Monday. She was 92.

Her death was confirmed by the Eagle Forum, the conservative organization she founded in 1975.

In her time, Mrs. Schlafly was one of the most polarizing figures in American public life, a self-described housewife who displayed a moral ferocity reminiscent of the ax-wielding prohibitionist Carry Nation. Richard Viguerie, who masterminded the use of direct mail to finance right-wing causes, called her "the first lady of the conservative movement."

On the left, Betty Friedan, the feminist leader and author, compared her to a religious heretic, telling her in a debate that she should burn at the stake for opposing the Equal Rights Amendment. Ms. Friedan called Mrs. Schlafly an "Aunt Tom."

Mrs. Schlafly became a forceful conservative voice in the 1950s, when she joined the right-wing crusade against international Communism. In the 1960s, with her popular self-published book "A Choice, Not an Echo" (it sold more than three million copies) and a legion of followers, she gave critical support to the presidential ambitions of Senator Barry Goldwater, the hard-right Arizonan who went on to lead the Republican Party to electoral disaster in 1964, but who planted the seeds of a conservative revival that would flower with the rise of Ronald Reagan.

And in the 1970s, Mrs. Schlafly's campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment played a large part in its undoing. The amendment would have expanded women's rights by barring any gender-based distinctions in federal and state laws, and it was within hailing distance of becoming the law of the land: Both houses of Congress had passed it by a vote of more than 90 percent, and 35 state legislatures -- only three shy of the number required for adoption - - had approved it.

But the amendment lost steam in the late 1970s under pressure from Mrs. …

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