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Burt Prelutsky / May 4, 2020

Schlafly: In Her Own Words

Phyllis Schlafly died at the age of 92, on September 5, 2016, two months before the presidential election.

Phyllis Schlafly died at the age of 92, on September 5, 2016, two months before the presidential election. Like a female Moses, she was deprived of the opportunity to see her dream fully realized with Donald Trump’s victory over the forces of darkness as exemplified by Hillary Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton was the living embodiment of everything that Mrs. Schlafly had opposed most of her adult life.

Now, nearly four years after her death, two things have converged to bring her back in the news. The first was the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) by Virginia, making it the all-important 38th state to do so. The other is the debut of an FX TV series called “Mrs. America,” starring Cate Blanchett as Mrs. Schlafly.

Not having seen the series, I can’t comment on the way they have chosen to depict her but considering the way that TV has depicted the Reagans and the Bushes, I think it’s a safe bet that Mrs. Schlafly is not portrayed in a favorable light.

Most Americans first became aware of her existence in 1964 when her self-published book, “A Choice, Not an Echo,” which charged that Eastern elites regularly repressed conservatives at presidential-nominating conventions, helped propel Barry Goldwater to the nomination.

She next came to the forefront when she waged war on the ERA as it was wending its way through Congress and the legislatures of the 50 states. Because few politicians were willing to be seen as opposing something with equal rights in its title, the proposed amendment had no trouble getting through the House and appeared to be well on its way to becoming an amendment until Mrs. Schlafly took it on.

On the face of it, the legislation seemed benign. All it said was: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the U.S. or any state on account of sex.”

You might think that only troglodytes would oppose it. But the fact is that the AF of L and other labor unions opposed its passage because they feared the amendment would invalidate existing labor legislation that protected women. Unions had fought long and hard to ensure that its female members would not be compelled to work at night or do any heavy lifting. But if they were suddenly to demand equality with men, those safeguards could be removed, along with the shorter hours they were often permitted so their roles as mothers wouldn’t be impeded.

For the most part, the women who pushed the legislation were privileged feminists who didn’t have jobs and held working mothers in the same contempt that they held men.

But, thanks in good part, to Schlafly’s efforts, it got bogged down when it failed to muster the required three-quarters of the states by the deadline.

However, on January 27 of this year, the Virginia legislature became the 38th state to ratify the amendment. The problem is that when it was first passed by the House, the deadline for ratification was 1982. It was therefore up to Nancy Pelosi to get around that little glitch by voting a couple of weeks later to remove the original time limit. Pretty much along party lines, the House voted 232-182 to arbitrarily extend the deadline by 38 years.

However, along the way, five states — Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota and Tennessee – had rescinded their original vote.

Naturally, the feminists argue that it was illegal for the five to change their collective minds, but, based on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s unexpected candor on the subject, I suspect that the Supreme Court will likely disagree.

In 2012, when I was working on my book of interviews, “67 Conservatives You Should Meet Before You Die,” I conducted an interview with Mrs. Schlafly. Unfortunately, we had to swap questions and answers via email, so I never got to meet the lady. My loss.

Here is a slightly abridged version of the exchange we had four years before her death.

Q. What did your parents do for a living?

A. My mother was the Librarian for the St. Louis Art Museum for 25 years. My father was a sales engineer for Westinghouse who lost his job in the Depression and never regained fulltime employment.

Q. When did you become a lawyer and did your parents encourage you?

A. I went to law school after I was 50 and my parents were long gone. Nobody encouraged me.

Q. What book has had the greatest influence on you?

A. I’m a reader; I’ve read so many books, I can’t say which had the greatest influence.

Q. In that case, what is your all-time favorite book, and why does it resonate with you?

A. I think the great American novel is “Gone with the Wind.” It’s a tale of perseverance and survival against all odds.

Q. I can se why you would identify with Scarlett O'Hara. What is the best advice you ever received?

A. I grew up in the Great Depression, so the best advice was to prepare myself to be able to support myself, as my mother did.

Q. Who or what makes you laugh?

A. The follies and inconsistencies of feminists, and their lack of understanding of human nature.

Q. In what specific ways do you think America would be different if Barry Goldwater had defeated Lyndon Johnson in 1964?

A. We would not have suffered the tragedy of the Vietnam War. Also, we would have won the Cold War much sooner because Goldwater would have restored our nuclear superiority, and we would not have suffered Nixon and Watergate.

Q. What is your all-time favorite movie?

A. Shirley Temple movies.

Q. How large a role has money played in your life?
A. It had a big effect when I didn’t have any, so I worked my way through college on the night shift, testing .30 and .50 caliber ammunition. After I completed college, money was not a big thing to me because I don’t enjoy extravagance.

Q. What is your favorite piece of music?

A. “The Flight of the Bumble Bee.”

Q. Is there anyone you envy?

A. No. I don’t know anyone who has had such a wonderful life.

Q. When you wrote “A Choice, Not an Echo,” did you have any idea how successful it would be?

A. I planned for it to be important and to change Republican politics forever. But I thought I could do that by selling 25,000 copies. I ended up selling three million.

Q. When you started the fight against the ERA, did you really think you had a chance to defeat it? As I recall, 30 states had already ratified it.

A. Yes, I believed we could defeat it or I wouldn’t have taken up the battle.

Q. What role does religion play in your life?

A. A big role. I’ve been a practicing Roman Catholic all my life.

Q. If they ever get around to filming your life story, what actress could you envision in the role?

A. Sorry, I don’t go to the movies, so I don’t know any of them.

Q. You have twice run for Congress and once for the presidency of the National Federation of Republican Women and lost each time. Did you come away from those losses knowing anything you didn’t know going in?

A. Absolutely. In fact, after I recovered emotionally from losing, I was glad I lost.

Q. Why were you glad?

A. If I had won the NFRW election, I would have spent a couple of years sitting at head tables instead of doing useful things. As for Congress, I accomplished far more for the conservative cause on the outside than I could have as a congresswoman.

Q. Such as?

A. Such as defeating the ERA, defeating the push for a Constitutional Convention, and making the Republican Party conservative and Pro-Life. Running for those offices also got me over my shyness.

Q. If, with a snap of your fingers, you could change anything about America, what would it be?

A. I’d defeat Obama and banish the supremacist judges.

Q. And who are they?

A. It’s a term I coined and used in my book, “The Supremacists.” They’re the judges who think they are supreme over the two other branches of government and the will of the American people, judges who say that the Constitution is a “living” document they can interpret according to their own biases instead of as it was written, and judges who falsely think that Supreme Court decisions are “the supreme law of the land.”

Q. If, with a snap of your fingers, you could change anything about Phyllis Schlafly, what would it be?

A. To be able to get along with less sleep.

Q. If you could sit down to dinner with any eight people who have ever lived, and for this one evening they could all speak English, who would they be?

A. George Washington, Tom Paine, Ronald Reagan and Thomas Edison.

Q. Ah, the classic boy, empty chair, boy, empty chair…Finally, if there’s a question I haven’t thought to ask that you wish I had, what is it and what is your answer?

A. Question: Why am I opposed to feminism? Answer: It teaches women the lie that they are victims of an oppressive patriarchy. Feminism is anti-men, anti-masculine, anti-marriage, anti-motherhood and anti-morality; that’s a recipe for unhappiness. In truth, American women are the most fortunate class of people who have ever lived.

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