Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade, a Biography by Donald T. Critchlow
abbyscher printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Mar 01, 2007 at 12:28:24 AM EST
[Guest front pager Abby Scher is editor of The Public Eye and a sociologist.
 -- ed

If you are under 40, you may never have heard of Phyllis Schlafly. Now in her 80s, she is a woman of relentless energy who ghostwrote Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign book, A Choice Not an Echo, while organizing her deep network of Republican women to support the ultra-conservative for the Republican presidential nomination. She ran for Congress twice, first in 1952 when she was only 27 years old, and again in 1970. And, while deriding the New Deal as incipient socialism that was a threat to the Republic, she championed anti-communism in the McCarthy Era. As the search for internal enemies dried up in the early 1960s, Schlafly cowrote books "proving" that the new threat was the fearsome missile gap with the Soviets (a gap later acknowledged to be wholly false).

Despite her syndicated radio shows and prominent role as national vice president of the National Federation of Republican Women in the 1960s, many Americans first glimpsed her power when she championed the Stop ERA movement in the 1970s and early `80s. She was impossible to ignore as she mobilized conservative ground troops state by state -- seemingly out of nowhere -- to blister the Republican and Democratic establishments and block the enactment of an Equal Rights Amendment for women.

Schlafly drove feminists crazy, both because she out-organized them, and because she should have been one of them.

How could a public figure of her accomplishments -- a woman in the limelight, constantly traveling, while her husband and six children stayed at home -- defend the idea that a wife should be subservient to her husband?

How could an activist who built women's power to anchor the conservative wing within the Republican Party and who demanded that women be treated equally in that arena ultimately overlook the struggle for equality in other areas of life? To add to the confusion, she once publicly admired suffragists for their "moral obligation to public life."

Although he never quite illuminates the conundrum that is Schlafly, Donald Critchlow, a professor of history at St. Louis University, has written a worthy biography of the woman and her times. While some of his interpretations of the rise of the Right might rile -- he discounts the role of racial divisions, for instance -- the sweep of his book is admirable, and he maintains a respectful dialogue (albeit mainly in his footnotes) with those who would disagree.

By focusing on Schlafly and the grassroots conservative world she helped build, he challenges the knee-jerk idea that conservative foundations and think tanks wholly powered the resurgence of the Right.

"Schlafly's talent, in part, was her ability to translate conservative ideas to grassroots activists and motivate them to achieve political goals," writes Critchlow. She is not an intellectual, he says, but a partisan.

Different moments brought out and energized different parts of her politics, he asserts. Her embrace of divine authority, anti-abortion politics, and a traditional home moved into the foreground in reaction to feminist gains and the Supreme Court's endorsement of secularization and prochoice in the 1960s and 1970s. But it was there when she earlier argued that anti-communism was a battle on behalf of Christianity against the godless and that limited government rested on "God's grace." In the 1960s, she argued that Americans were losing the cold war and were too easily led by their (liberal) leaders due to growing hedonism and materialism, a charge she laid on feminists a decade later.

Her greatest accomplishment may not have been the defeat of the ERA, but her ability to imagine and forge new coalitions. During that struggle, she reached out to conservative evangelicals for the first time, trained them in public speaking and advocacy, and had them work hand in hand with the conservative women of her base. She mobilized new women from outside of the party structure while brokering a peace with the stalwart conservative women loyalists. Throughout these periods, Critchlow observes, she maintained a populist anti-elitism, whether against the moderate East Coast Republicans linked to financiers and free trade who she fought for control of the party, or against the feminists who she successfully portrayed as out-of-touch intellectuals who scoffed at the protection of the home so valued by other women.

She also remained (and remains) a GOP loyalist, even though the party's power brokers kept her out of the inner circle, and even after her suspicious defeat as president of National Federation of Republican Women in 1967. The federation's membership dropped by half after her defeat, as her loyalists left in droves.

More than Critchlow, perhaps, I now see Schlafly an innovator who departed from pre-war conservatism in key ways. A Catholic, she was active in her local chapter of the National Conference of Christian and Jews, and rejected the anti-Semitism that tainted many conservatives after the war. Nor was her ecumenicalism universally popular. She was spurned by Fred Schwarz after approaching him to create a joint Catholic-Protestant anti-communist organization because Schwarz believed it would be suspect among his evangelical base. She was less rabidly anti-New Deal than some, continuing to embrace Social Security, public housing and other social programs in the 1950s.

An attractive, photogenic, and skilled public speaker who kept her cool under fire, she represented a fresh new image of a level-headed conservative.

Schlafly was also creatively multimedia, building on the power of radio, print and eventually video to reach the grassroots. It was in print that she flicked on the incendiary high beams; through her syndicated columns, monthly newsletters, and books, she helped shape the politics of millions who read them. To defeat the Democrats in 1988, instead of writing her usual campaign book, she commissioned a popular video on Willie Horton, a convicted murderer who committed rape while on furlough in Massachusetts, the state governed by Democratic candidate Dukakis.

Schlafly also admirably kept her cool as a tactician. For example, in the ERA battle, she held at bay those who wanted to denounce the amendment as a form of socialism or UN-style consolidation of power at the top; her more reserved strategy ultimately proved effective. This was in contrast to some pro-ERA forces, who linked the issue to abortion rights by insisting that equality under the law meant states had to pay for abortions, a tactic that might have contributed to the defeat of the amendment.

Crafting arguments that focused on family values and the necessarily different roles of men and women, Schlafly managed to enlarge the coalition opposing the ERA. The coalition included Mormons and Orthodox Jews, not just Catholics and Protestants. It included political novices, but she trained her troops to act like her: smile when being attacked, be groomed and poised for TV, and, especially, be a lady. As Critchlow points out, this approach spoke volumes to the male, middle-aged state legislators who controlled the fate of the ERA, in sharp contrast to the message sent by outspoken feminists exuding the counterculture.

Critchlow argues that Schlafly's political training ground was in the Republican Party. But he overlooks the way her tactics emerge directly from the middle class women's club movement with roots early in the century. Like other middle class club women, Schlafly marshaled facts and figures, displaying charts and maps in her talks. Her focus on education -- creating anti-communist reading lists and materials for women to use in selfguided study groups, for example -- is straight out of the women's club playbook with roots early in the century. My own research on women's groups during McCarthyism found such grassroots expertise embraced by conservative women as much as liberal ones. All these women legitimized their claim on a place in public life by developing their expertise, showing a faith in reason that Critchlow overlooks in arguing that Schlafly rejects the Enlightenment.

Nor does Critchlow fully value how Schlafly's rhetorical choices contributed to her eventual power and credibility. By mixing the language of liberty and the early documents of the Republic, rights language and values language, Schlafly spoke in a way that connected with many of those at the grassroots who were struggling to find their own voice. It made her arguments sound reasonable within American discourse.

The separation of church and state is a time-honored pillar of an American Constitution and culture... but it was never meant that religion should be excluded from public life or from our schools and colleges.

Our policy should be to eliminate discrimination against women and to achieve equity for women without sacrificing traditional women's rights.


Liberal policies all require government to take over the functions of the family and reduce family rights.

Looking back, Schlafly has said she had a role in launching the Christian Right -- even though, as Critchlow argues, she is not totally of that movement. While embracing traditional family values against the corrosion of materialism and feminism, Schlafly and her supporters are more leery of big government and encroachment on civil liberties. And the Christian Right has a decidedly Protestant cast, unlike Schlafly's ecumenical, family values campaigns. By 1979, Beverly LeHaye had founded Concerned Women of America (CWA) as an evangelical Protestant organization.

As family values advocates sitting between the wings of the party, her network could potentially have been a bridge between them. Ironically, with the rise of the Right, Schlafly's power seems to have diminished. With 50,000 members at its height (compared to 600,000 in CWA), the Eagle Forum and Schlafly never found a powerful foothold in the party.

White southerners angry that the federal government (eventually) defended the civil rights of blacks arguably played a bigger role in generating disgust at big government than Schlafly. And the fight against the New Deal produced new intellectuals who popularized free market arguments, enlarging the GOP's base. As the Right grew, Schlafly's voice became less important. Yet her leadership in the 1970s ERA battle, building on her experiences in the decades before, was invaluable in helping create a rupture of the status quo and a sense that the liberal juggernaut could be stopped.

This review first appeared in the Summer 2006 2006 issue of The Public Eye.  

I am only twenty-five years old and therefore I have not heard much about the Phyllis Schlafly. Well echeck casino Canada is allowing you to earn money through online casino. But I feel good about reading very interesting and inspirational details about her life. I have decided to do more research on her.

by Abbot45558 on Thu Sep 05, 2019 at 03:17:22 AM EST

Nice post! This is a very nice blog that I will definitively come back to more times this year! Thanks for informative post.    cbd gummies

by hasnainkhatri on Fri Jan 24, 2020 at 04:10:33 AM EST

I needed to thank you for this incredible read!! I unquestionably adored each and every piece of it. I have you bookmarked your site to look at the new stuff you post.    Massachusetts Local Guide

by hasnainkhatri on Tue Feb 04, 2020 at 07:03:22 AM EST

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free.    animal

by hasnainkhatri on Sun Feb 23, 2020 at 09:25:00 AM EST

When a blind man bears the standard pity those who follow.... Where ignorance is bliss `tis folly to be wise....

by hasnainkhatri on Thu Mar 05, 2020 at 03:42:41 AM EST

I needed to thank you for this incredible read!! I unquestionably adored each and every piece of it. I have you bookmarked your site to look at the new stuff you post. Alive Directory

by Anusak on Sat Mar 07, 2020 at 01:01:34 AM EST

It turns out that even the hottest port has a few places where you can get off the beaten path. Here are some recommendations that will make you feel like you're in the know    Click This Link

by hasnainkhatri on Thu Mar 12, 2020 at 03:56:58 AM EST

Persons appreciateshoppingfor amazing, appealing, fascinating and from time to time attractive aromas for them selves and pertaining to others. This can be executed conveniently along with inexpensively in an on-line perfume shop. 먹튀

by IsaiahJosiah on Fri Mar 13, 2020 at 09:12:10 AM EST

We are truly thankful for your blog entry. You will discover a great deal of methodologies in the wake of going to your post. I was precisely scanning for. A debt of gratitude is in order for such post and please keep it up.     토토커뮤니티

by hasnainkhatri on Tue Mar 17, 2020 at 05:24:40 AM EST

Awesome and interesting article. Great things you've always shared with us. Thanks. Just continue composing this kind of post. ดูบอลสด

by Anusak on Thu Mar 19, 2020 at 05:02:55 AM EST

Love to read it,Waiting For More new Update and I Already Read your Recent Post its Great Thanks. SEO backlinks

by Anusak on Fri Mar 20, 2020 at 03:32:26 AM EST

Best work you have done, this online website is cool with great facts and looks. I have stopped at this blog after viewing the excellent content. I will be back for more qualitative work. agen dominoqq

by asad on Fri Apr 03, 2020 at 11:10:16 AM EST

Hey, this day is too much good for me, since this time I am reading this enormous informative article here at my home. Thanks a lot for massive hard work. durabolin for salebuy Deca Durabolin

by Anusak on Wed Apr 08, 2020 at 11:16:01 AM EST

This is the type of information I've long been trying to find. Thank you for writing this information. price of promethazine codeine syrup

by Anusak on Sun Apr 12, 2020 at 04:05:33 AM EST

This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. This is very nice one and gives indepth information. Thanks for this nice article. watch anime online

by Anusak on Mon Apr 13, 2020 at 11:13:06 AM EST

Pretty good post. I have just stumbled upon your blog and enjoyed reading your blog posts very much. I am looking for new posts to get more precious info. Big thanks for the useful info. Download Lagu Gratis

by Anusak on Wed Apr 15, 2020 at 05:20:52 AM EST

Only aspire to mention ones content can be as incredible. This clarity with your post is superb and that i may think you're a guru for this issue. High-quality along with your concur permit me to to seize your current give to keep modified by using approaching blog post. Thanks a lot hundreds of along with you should go on the pleasurable get the job done. buy youtube views

by Anusak on Sat Apr 18, 2020 at 06:43:54 AM EST

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. youtube to mp3

by Anusak on Wed Apr 22, 2020 at 09:02:58 AM EST

This is the type of information I've long been trying to find. Thank you for writing this information. air conditioning service

by Anusak on Thu Apr 23, 2020 at 07:25:29 AM EST

Some truly wonderful work on behalf of the owner of this internet site , perfectly great articles . i markets live sign

by Anusak on Sun Apr 26, 2020 at 08:23:38 AM EST

Thanks for a very interesting blog. What else may I get that kind of info written in such a perfect approach? I've a undertaking that I am simply now operating on, and I have been at the look out for such info. MP3 download from Youtube

by Anusak on Tue Apr 28, 2020 at 06:22:51 AM EST

I wish more authors of this type of content would take the time you did to research and write so well. I am very impressed with your vision and insight. Paito Warna Hongkong

by Anusak on Tue Apr 28, 2020 at 09:33:18 AM EST

When you use a genuine service, you will be able to provide instructions, share materials and choose the formatting style.

by Anusak on Sat May 02, 2020 at 02:36:55 AM EST

Impressive web site, Distinguished feedback that I can tackle. Im moving forward and may apply to my current job as a pet sitter, which is very enjoyable, but I need to additional expand. Regards. Costa Blanca Property For Sale

by Anusak on Mon May 04, 2020 at 06:43:10 AM EST

Interesting topic for a blog. I have been searching the Internet for fun and came upon your website. Fabulous post. Thanks a ton for sharing your knowledge! It is great to see that some people still put in an effort into managing their websites. I'll be sure to check back again real soon.   download fb video

by herrysami on Tue May 26, 2020 at 12:53:53 PM EST

I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business. ufabet

by Anusak on Tue Jun 02, 2020 at 03:39:12 AM EST

Thanks for the blog loaded with so many information. Stopping by your blog helped me to get what I was looking for. authority backlinks

by Anusak on Thu Jun 18, 2020 at 10:05:59 AM EST

WWW Talk To Action

Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (328 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (172 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (97 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (92 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (103 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (123 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (107 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (75 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (223 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (54 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (150 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (173 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (50 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (52 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (209 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (233 comments)
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (84 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (169 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (142 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (140 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (133 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (142 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (122 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (185 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (139 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (80 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (188 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (76 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (106 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (104 comments)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.