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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 9, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 37
Ding dong, Phyllis Schlafly is dead
Section One
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Ding dong, Phyllis Schlafly is dead

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Phyllis Schlafly, one of the iconic figures of the American ultra-right, died on September 5. She was 92.

Schlafly was best known for her opposition to feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment, but her support for traditional 'family values' led her to become a vocal enemy of the LGBT community as well.

'Attacks on the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman come from the Gay Lobby seeking social recognition of their lifestyle,' she wrote in 2009.

In 2010, she said of same-sex couples, 'Nobody's stopping them from shacking up. The problem is that they are trying to make us respect them, and that's an interference with what we believe.'

In 1992 her son John, then a 42-year-old attorney who still lived with his parents, revealed he was Gay. Schlafly said she considered the disclosure a deliberate attempt to embarrass her.

John Schlafly defended his mother and refused to repudiate Republican politicians, like Pat Robertson, who had condemned the LGBT community. 'Family values people' are 'not out to bash Gays,' he said.

Schlafly broke into politics in 1952, after Republicans had asked her husband, also named John, to run for Congress. When he turned them down, Schlafly volunteered to run instead. She won the Republican primary but lost the general election.

She was, however, elected to a post in the Daughters of the American Revolution and went on a speaking tour on their behalf, which laid the basis for a growing network of conservative allies.

In 1958, she and her husband started the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, named for a Hungarian Catholic leader who had been arrested by local Communists. American sympathizers said Mindszenty was a heroic freedom fighter. Hungarian Communists called him an American spy.

Many members of Schlafly's foundation were also members of the secretive right-wing group the John Birch Society. Although she always denied she was associated with them, the group's founder, Robert Welch, once called Schlafly 'one of our most loyal members.'

Ironically, John Birch Society funding came from oil billionaire Fred Koch, father of right-wing financiers Charles and David Koch.

Beginning in 1962, Schlafly hosted a 15-minute radio show on national security called 'America, Wake Up.' It was carried by 25 Illinois stations.

Schlafly hit the national scene in 1964, with the publication of her book A Choice, Not an Echo, promoting the presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater. In the book, Schlafly charges that the GOP was run by 'secret kingmakers' who rigged presidential nominations to suit themselves, a charge eerily reminiscent of Donald Trump's primary campaign rhetoric.

During the 1970s, Schlafly led the campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment. The amendment would have prohibited any gender-based distinctions in federal and state laws, and for several years it seemed to be on its way to ratification.

Both houses of Congress had passed it by a vote of more than 90%, 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 Schlafly's volunteer brigades of church ladies. Despite an extension of the deadline, the amendment died on June 30, 1982.

Schlafly founded the Eagle Forum in 1975 as a spinoff of her anti-ERA work. Earlier this year, she survived an attempt to wrest control of the organization away from her after she endorsed Donald Trump for the GOP nomination. Dissidents led by her daughter, Anne Cori, and her former protégé, Cathie Adams, wanted to endorse Ted Cruz.

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