Saint Louis University history professor Donald Critchlow, who profiled Schlafly in his 2005 book, Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade, said the defeat of the amendment helped revive conservatism and helped pave the way for Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980.
“What the ERA (defeat) did was show the right, and especially Reagan strategists, that a new constituency could be tapped to revitalize the right. It allowed the right to take over the party,” Critchlow told the AP shortly after his book was written.
Schlafly was born Aug. 15, 1924, and grew up in Depression-era St. Louis. Her parents were Republican but not politically involved.
Her own activism was born partly out of convenience. With the country involved in World War II during her college years, Schlafly worked the graveyard shift at the St. Louis Ordnance Plant. Her job included testing ammunition by firing machine guns. She would get off work at 8 a.m., attend morning classes, then sleep in the middle of the day before doing it all over again.
The schedule limited her options for a major. “In order to pick classes to fit my schedule I picked political science,” Schlafly recalled in the 2007 interview.
She graduated from Washington University in 1944, when she was 19. Her first taste of real politics came at age 22, when she guided the 1946 campaign of Republican congressional candidate Claude Bakewell, helping him to a major upset win.
In 1952, with her young family living in nearby Alton, Illinois, Schlafly’s husband, attorney John Schlafly Jr., was approached about running for Congress. He declined, but she ran and narrowly lost in a predominantly Democratic district. She also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1970.
Schlafly earned a master’s degree in government from Harvard in 1945. She enrolled in Washington University School of Law in 1976, and at age 51, graduated 27th in a class of 204.
Schlafly received an honorary degree at Washington University’s commencement in 2008. Though some students and faculty silently protested by getting up from their seats and turning their backs to the stage, Schlafly called it “a happy day. I’m just sorry for those who tried to rain on a happy day.”
Citing Schlafly’s views about homosexuals, women and immigrants — she was an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, abortion rights and loosening U.S. border restrictions — protesters said she went against the most fundamental principles for which the university stood.
Schlafly remained active in conservative politics well into her later years, 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.
Schlafly endorsed Trump in early March and introduced the then-GOP front-runner at a St. Louis rally.
“Phyllis Schlafly is a conservative icon who led millions to action, reshaped the conservative movement, and fearlessly battled globalism and the ‘kingmakers’ on behalf of America’s workers and families,” Trump said in a statement Monday. “I was honored to spend time with her during this campaign.”
Schlafly’s husband died in 1993. She is survived by six children, 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
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