My first awareness of Phyllis Schlafly was more than 40 years ago, when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Oklahoma. I was cutting my political teeth and was appointed as a student member of a campus-wide committee to study salary inequities between male and female faculty members. That assignment lead to my involvement (apologies for being a wayward youth…) in the effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in Oklahoma.
What Phyllis did to stop the ERA is nothing short of remarkable. Flooding the state of Oklahoma — and other states yet to ratify — were thousands and thousands of flyers emblazoned with the headline: “Ladies, Have You Heard?” Think about what Phyllis did: she organized women across America without television ads, pollsters, microtargeting, SuperPACs, the internet, email, Google, social media or any of the tools that we now think are essential to campaigns and grassroots organizing.
Phyllis was a one-woman force, dedicated to stopping a constitutional amendment that she believed would lead to same sex marriage, co-ed bathrooms, women in combat and the destruction of traditional family values in our country. Think about her warnings from 40 years ago, how prescient she was. How farsighted she has always been.
Because of her determination and her ability to mobilize an army of citizens who made their voices heard in state capitols across the nation, the ERA fell three states short of ratification.
What seemed and sounded like a perfectly innocuous, high-minded commitment to ‘fairness’ became a fierce fight for traditional values and the preservation of the U.S. Constitution. It took some years - and some straightening out - before I realized that all the things Phyllis warned about, in those “Ladies Have You Heard” flyers were real and were happening before our very eyes. And she saw it coming well before virtually any others.
The battle against the ERA was not Phyllis’s first tour of duty in combating the forces of evil, and it certainly wasn’t her last.
Phyllis has trained tens of thousands of women - and men - on issues and political tactics. Because of Phyllis’s leadership, women such as Bunny Chambers from my home state of Oklahoma became involved in the anti-ERA fight - and then went on to become leaders in their own right. Bunny Chambers, the Eagle Forum Oklahoma state coordinator for the past 15 years, served as Oklahoma’s Republican national committeewoman for more than a decade, and was one of the leaders of the Reagan campaigns of 1976 and 1980.
Because of Phyllis, the Republican platform has strong pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-American sovereignty planks. It is Phyllis who has lead the way every four years to ensure that those who would water down the GOP platform are turned back — so the American people can see what a Republican officeholder is supposed to stand for — and how Republicans are supposed to vote when they are elected to offices at every level.
A few years ago, I arrived at the St Louis airport for the National Rifle Association annual meeting. As I deplaned into the gate area, I saw Phyllis - and went over to say hello. She asked what I was doing in St. Louis - and when I told her I was there for the NRA annual meeting, she immediately gave me a message to deliver: “You tell Wayne LaPierre and Chuck Cunningham that they need to be actively involved in fighting this effort for a constitutional convention. Tell them there won’t be a Second Amendment in a new U.S. Constitution. Make sure you go tell them I said they need to get busy on this.”
And there is one thing about Phyllis: when she gives you an assignment, you better do what she asks, because the next time she sees you, she will want to know if you did as she told you to do.
Phyllis is a pioneer of women in the law — and has kept her attorney’s license active through all these years. In 2008, the Republican National Lawyers Association held its annual election law symposium in St Louis. I was a speaker on one of the first panels of the day and as I looked out over the crowd, I saw a woman in the audience that looked like Phyllis. I was supposed to be paying attention to my fellow panelists but I kept looking at that woman and finally realized it WAS Phyllis. She had signed up online so she could get her CLE credits required for licensed attorneys in Missouri.
There are no words to express the gratitude that we all feel for the life and work - the millions of words she has written, spoken, and disseminated — all in the service of her God and her country and in her devotion to family, America and the protection of the values that have made America great.
There are not many people who can be instantly recognized by use solely of their first names. But for the foot soldiers of the conservative movement, there need only be the mention of this woman’s first name, Phyllis. and everyone knows who that is, what she has done, and what she means to America.
There cannot be enough tributes or too many kudos to Phyllis Schlafly. Our debt to her can never be repaid.
Thank you, Phyllis. You are truly an American icon and heroine.
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