Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, best known as the leader of the opposition to the 1970s Equal Rights Amendment, died Monday at age 92.
Eagle Forum, the grass-roots organization Mrs. Schlafly founded and presided over until her death, said in an online statement that she had died at her home in St. Louis surrounded by family members.
“Rest in peace, Phyllis Schlafly. Wife, mother, grandmother, author, lawyer, tireless voice of grass-roots conservative activism,” said conservative columnist Michelle Malkin.
“A woman of valor, a formidable friend and adversary, an American patriot,” said Weekly Standard editor William Kristol.
A polymath and a political combatant whose adversaries included communists at the height of the Cold War and feminists emboldened by the sexual revolution, Mrs. Schlafly will best be remembered for almost single-handedly derailing the Equal Rights Amendment as it neared ratification.
The amendment was approved by Congress in 1972 and within a year was ratified by 30 states. But Mrs. Schlafly argued that it disadvantaged stay-at-home mothers compared with their working counterparts. She formed the Stop ERA movement and established state chapters dedicated to thwarting the amendment at the local level.
PHOTOS: Celebrity deaths in 2016: The famous faces we've lost
Even after Congress extended the ratification deadline by more than two years, the Equal Rights Amendment never obtained approval from a necessary 38 state legislatures.
Her victory served as a precursor to the Reagan revolution, uniting the anti-communist and pro-family factions of the Republican Party in order to triumph at the ballot box.
“America has lost a great stateswoman, and we at Eagle Forum and among the conservative movement have lost a beloved friend and mentor, who taught and inspired so many to fight the good fight in defense of American values,” said Eagle Forum First Vice President Eunie Smith.
“There will never be another Phyllis Schlafly. Today is a day to celebrate her amazing legacy and to remember the profound difference she made in the conduct of American public policy. Thank you, Phyllis. We will not grow weary,” Ms. Smith said.
Mrs. Schlafly’s accolades include being named one of the 100 most important women of the 20th century by Ladies’ Home Journal and 1992 Illinois Mother of the Year.
Mrs. Schlafly burst onto the national scene in 1964 with her book “A Choice, Not an Echo,” a clarion call for conservatives to unite behind presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. More than 3.5 million copies of the book were sold.
PHOTOS: Remembering Phyllis Schlafly
She would go on to write more than 20 more books and more than 2,500 columns. Her 2012 book, “No Higher Power,” focused on the Obama administration’s “assault on religious freedom.”
She supported the traditional definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, although one of her sons came out as gay.
She was embroiled in national politics into her final days, penning recent op-eds on topics including the transgender bathroom debate and criticisms of the Obama administration.
A staunch pro-life Republican, Mrs. Schlafly played an active role in Republican National Conventions since 1952 and helped put a pro-life plank in every Republican Party platform since 1976. Although she participated in many political campaigns, she never won office herself.
“Your work is an example to all those who would struggle for an America that is prosperous and free,” President Reagan said at a tribute event for Mrs. Schlafly in 1984.
“When the histories of this era are seriously written, Phyllis Schlafly will take her place among the tiny number of leaders who made a decisive and permanent difference,” economist George Gilder wrote in his 1987 book, “Men and Marriage.”
Mrs. Schlafly was also an early and prominent supporter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, lending her hard-earned conservative credentials to the billionaire businessman’s outsider White House bid.
“She was a patriot, a champion for women, and a symbol of strength,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “She fought every day right to the end for America First. Her legacy will live on in the movement she led and the millions she inspired.”
A new book detailing her support for the real estate mogul, “The Conservative Case for Trump,” co-authored by Ed Martin and Brett Decker, is set to be released Tuesday.
The trio declared that Mr. Trump would prove “a surprising conservative choice,” advising,” Donald Trump is the most controversial Republican presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater, and could be the most conservative and successful since Ronald Reagan.”
Mrs. Schlafly and company also looked beyond the political theater and partisan outrage of the election season and cited the potential impact of Mr. Trump’s appointees to the Supreme Court, his immigration policy and his plan for an economic revival — which they compare to the “Reagan boom of the 1980s.”
The book also praised Mr. Trump’s defense of the First Amendment against an outspoken left, and why the Republican presidential nominee’s “fresh thinking” on defense could neutralize the threat of terrorism.
She was even sufficiently respected as an activist by those on the other side that radical feminist Catharine MacKinnon, in a 1982 debate with Mrs. Schlafly, claimed that her rival was a victim of sex discrimination because Ronald Reagan didn’t put her in his Cabinet.
“I do submit to you though, that any man who [among other things] had done effective and brilliant political, policy and organizational work within the party; had published widely, including nine books; was instrumental in stopping a major social initiative to amend the Constitution just short of a victory dead in its tracks and had a beautiful, accomplished family — any man like that would have a place in the current administration,” Ms. MacKinnon said, according to the transcript of her remarks in her own book, “Feminism Unbound.”
“She was widely reported to have wanted such a post … she certainly deserved a place in the Defense Department. Phyllis Schlafly is a qualified woman,” Ms. MacKinnon said.
Other feminists saw her differently. “I’d like to burn you at the stake,” Betty Friedan said to Mrs. Schlafly at a 1973 ERA debate at Illinois State University. Mrs. Schlafly coolly responded that such a comment “shows the intemperate nature of proponents of ERA.”
Phyllis McAlpin Stewart was born in St. Louis on Aug. 15, 1924. Her father was a machinist, and her mother was a librarian. Mrs. Schlafly was a dedicated Girl Scout and attended Catholic schools, including Academy of Sacred Heart.
She worked nights at an ammunition plant as she earned her bachelor of arts degree in 1944 as a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. She later received a master’s degree in government from Harvard University in 1945, law degree from Washington University Law School in 1978 and multiple academic honors, including an honorary doctor of humane letters from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008.
She married Mr. Schlafly, a lawyer and devout Catholic, in 1949 and began life as a stay-at-home mother in Alton, Illinois.
She challenged feminist thinking that said housewives lived in “a comfortable concentration camp” and women were “victims of patriarchy” who needed government to solve their problems.
“Feminism cannot be reconciled with conservatism,” Mrs. Schlafly told The Washington Times in 2012.
“Feminism still teaches that the role of a homemaker is demeaning to women and that women should plan their lives in the labor force with no space for marriage, husband or children.
“Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that American women are the most fortunate class of people who ever lived on earth. Those two dogmas are irreconcilable, and it explains why most feminists are Obama supporters,” she said.
Mrs. Schlafly is survived by six children, 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were pending Monday night.
⦁ Victor Morton, Jennifer Harper and Cheryl Wetzstein contributed to this report.