- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

The Feminist Majority Foundation warns against her as a leader of the "radical right." One left-wing activist denounced her as the "grande dame of ultraconservative conspiracism." Other opponents have called her worse.
Twenty years after her successful campaign to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, Phyllis Schlafly remains the woman that feminists and liberals love to hate.
"The older feminists are still saying the same things, and still bitter about the whole issue of feminism and their legislative goals and the ERA," Mrs. Schlafly says. "That's why they hate me, because I defeated the ERA."
Mrs. Schlafly says that at age 78 she's "working harder than ever," promoting her new book, "Feminist Fantasies," and preparing for an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week in Washington.
Mrs. Schlafly is the author of 19 other books on topics such as defense policy and education, and burst into national prominence in 1964, when she wrote and published "A Choice Not an Echo." The book argued for a strong conservative stance by Republicans. It sold 3 million copies and is widely credited with helping Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater win the Republican presidential nomination, sowing the seeds of later conservative political successes.
The Schlafly-led defeat of the ERA shocked many. The amendment, which declared that "equality of rights under the law" could not be denied "on account of sex," passed the Senate in 1972 and was ratified by 30 states during the next year. It needed 38 states to become the 27th amendment to the Constitution, and ratification seemed unstoppable.
Mrs. Schlafly formed a group called Stop ERA, and the amendment's momentum ground to a halt.
"In the next nine years, they got [ratifications from] five more states, but five other states rescinded their ratification, so their net score for nine years was zero," she says.
She testified before legislatures, gave speeches to women's groups and debated ERA supporters at every opportunity. She had a secret advantage, she says.
"Most of the women I debated, they didn't have a husband or children," says Mrs. Schlafly, the mother of six children and grandmother of 14. "Drafting women was one of the big issues in the ERA debate. If you're over draft age and don't have any daughters, you don't grasp the importance of that issue.
"When ERA came out of Congress, we were just coming out of the Vietnam War and the draft was a big issue. I had sons and daughters about that age, and my daughters thought ERA was the silliest thing they ever heard of: 'We just got this big amendment, and the first thing we've got to do is go sign up for the draft? You've got to be kidding.'#"
Why the ERA was needed is something feminists never explained. "The ERA would work best against laws that blatantly discriminate, but we've been successful in eliminating many of those," Julie Goldscheid, general counsel of Safe Horizons, a battered women's group, recently told Women's ENews.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination against women, but ERA supporters, who hope to revive the measure, say equality must be enshrined in the Constitution.
"Only a constitutional guarantee can ensure that equal rights across the board are inalienable for both women and men," Women's ENews reporter Chris Lombardi wrote last year.
The ERA died on June 30, 1982, and opponents had a big party at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, Mrs. Schlafly says.
Feminism has never recovered from the defeat of the ERA, Mrs. Schlafly notes. Most women today are "not really attracted to the word 'feminist,'#" she says. "All surveys show that the majority of women do not want to be called feminists."
Critics have accused Mrs. Schlafly of hypocrisy, noting that she has celebrated traditional women's roles while pursuing a political career. But she says there is no contradiction.
"Feminism is not about female achievement," Mrs. Schlafly says. "If it was, you would hear them praising Margaret Thatcher. Feminism is about developing the notion of victimology. They want to paint women as oppresssed victims, kept down by men and this oppressive patriarchal society.
"I think that's why they underestimated me, because they really don't believe women can accomplish what I accomplished."
An understanding of Mrs. Schlafly's accomplishments might focus on the year 1964, when she was a pregnant mother of five.
"That was the most productive year of my life," she says. In addition to publishing "A Choice Not an Echo," she collaborated with Adm. Chester Ward on "The Gravediggers," a critique of U.S. foreign policy that sold 2 million copies "all out of my garage," Mrs. Schlafly says.
"I was running the Illinois Federation of Republican Women. I had a contested race for delegate to the Republican National Convention and won. In the fall I had a race for first vice president of the National Federation of Republican Women and was elected. I made dozens of speeches for Goldwater. … And I ended up the year having a baby on Nov. 16."
"That," she says, "was the year I was 40."
Hard work was nothing new for a woman who spent World War II working night shifts at the St. Louis Ordnance Plant.
"I went through college working as a gunner in the biggest ammunition plant in the world, firing machine guns," Mrs. Schlafly says. "I did all the tests of the ammunition before it could be accepted by the government."
After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Washington University in St. Louis, she added a master's degree in political science from Harvard University, then returned to her alma mater for a law degree.
She has helped inspire a new generation of conservative women, including columnist Ann Coulter, who wrote the foreword to "Feminist Fantasies."
"Writing the foreword to a book by Phyllis Schlafly is like being the warm-up band for the Rolling Stones," Miss Coulter wrote. "Schlafly is brilliant, beautiful, principled, articulate, tireless, and most important, absolutely fearless. And … she is always right. She has always been right. She will always be right."
The book, compiling more than 30 years of her writings on feminism and related issues, is "a commentary on how the feminists … presented their message over the years and how it impacted on our culture," Mrs. Schlafly says.
"I think the book ought to be a staple in women's studies courses. In women's studies, they always read such tiresome things."
Feminists told "young women that they needed to be liberated from home, husband and children," Mrs. Schlafly explains. "They called themselves the women's liberation movement, and that meant liberation from the home. And my book shows how this fantasy played out … in every avenue."
But the revolution is over, she says. The women's movement has "lost its reason for being. What happened is young women get older, and once they get past 40, they realize what they missed. Life looks different to a woman at 40 than it did at 20."

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