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Of all the classes of people who have ever lived, the American woman is the most privileged. We have the most rights and rewards, and the fewest duties. Our unique status is the result of a fortunate combination of circumstances.

We have the immense good fortune to live in a civilization that respects the family as the basic unit of society. This respect is part and parcel of our laws and customs. It is based on the fact of life--which no legislation or agitation can erase--that women have babies and men don't.

If you don't like this fundamental difference, you will have to take up your complaint with God because He created us this way.

    -What's Wrong with Equal Rights for Women? (Phyllis Schlafly, February 1972)


It's said that success has a hundred fathers, while failure is an orphan. Certainly the Conservative Revolution has its share of legitimate claimants to paternity, from Russell Kirk to William F. Buckley to Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan, with many others in-between. But the triumph of modern conservatism has just one mother: Phyllis Schlafly. In fact, her significance goes far beyond the conservative movement to American politics generally, where it must be said she is one of the two or three most consequential women in American history.

In 1964, Mrs. Schlafly wrote A Choice Not an Echo, which made the argument for wresting the Republican presidential nomination away from the Eastern liberal establishment and running a conservative--it sold 3 million copies and helped Barry Goldwater claim the top of the ticket. As Rick Perlstein and Godfrey Hodgson have both written, the Party lost the election, but was transformed. That same year she also coauthored, with Admiral Chester Ward, The Gravediggers, a clarion call to stop dithering around with the Soviets and get down to winning the Cold War. It sold two million copies. She was so far ahead of her times that one of her main points--that we'd made a tragic mistake by not pursuing our advantage in anti-missile technology--would not be picked up by a national leader until Ronald Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative. The recognition that they could not compete in this technological sphere is widely credited as a main contributing cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Her greatest contribution to American life though came in the early 70s, when she became the opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment. By 1973, the ERA had already been passed by the House and Senate and 30 out of the 38 state legislatures need for it to be added to the Constitution. Over the ensuing decade, as she spoke, testified, and organized against, only five more states would pass the Amendment, while five rescinded their prior passage. It died an ignominious death on June 30, 1982, not one bit closer to becoming law than when Mrs. Schlafly drew a bead on it. Even before Ronald Reagan's 1976 challenge to Gerald Ford and 1980 election, her victory signalled the turning of the liberal tide and the return of the United States to its more conservative norm.

Now age 78, Mrs. Schlafly continues to write, to speak, to organize, and to serve as an example for all folk of sound mind, but particularly for conservative women, one of whom--Ann Coulter--says of her own contribution to Feminist Fantasies that: "Writing the Foreword to a book by Phyllis Schlafly is like being the warm-up band for the Rolling Stones." The book itself collects thirty some odd years of Mrs. Schlafly's writings and Congressional testimony on the issues surrounding women and the family. As in all that she has said and written in her public career, there is one unifying theme; human nature is real and God given and it endures despite the fever dreams of the Left that they can remake it. When it comes to gender issues, one fundamental facet of human nature illuminates her discussion: women are different than men and no amount of legislation, re-education, or feminist fantasy will ever change this fact. It is this stubborn, heroic insistence on an often unfashionable truth that makes these essays, no matter their age or the topic at hand, sound as pertinent and sensible as the day they were written.

One of the most unfair complaints that conservatives face is that they are merely reactionary, as if they had no ideas of their own but merely tried placing roadblocks in front of progress. In fact, conservatism itself, and many conservatives, offered coherent and systematic arguments against almost all "progressive" ideas before they were ever attempted. How can that which has precedent be reactionary? This collection proves the point nicely as we see Mrs. Schafly attack social experimentation time and again, before it is attempted, follow up with devastating critiques as it gets under way and inevitably flounders, and then offer a postmortem over the failed corpse. So, for example, there she is thirty years ago warning that women who delay the start of family in order to pursue a career will find themselves dissatisfied. There she is as those women hit their thirties and forties and begin expressing their first pangs of regret. And finally, when some author more acceptable to feminists and the Left begins to write about how unfair it is that this has happened to a generation of women, there's Mrs. Schlafly, mother of six and architect of a career that most people can only dream about, to remind us all that this isn't something that "happened to" women, but something they did to themselves, because they thought they could overcome human nature and the maternal instinct.

Think for a moment how few people have been truly important political figures for the past forty years--the ones who come to mind are folks like Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, Strom Thurmond. And, as that list shows, think how much rarer still it is to be able to look back through your public positions and pronouncements and find nothing to be ashamed of, much to be proud of, and nearly all to have proven correct. By turns stern, humorous, exasperated, and exonerated, Mrs. Schlafly has poked and prodded us all, but American women in particular, to recognize and accept the truth about ourselves and about the differences between the sexes. When we've listened we've been better for it. When we've paid no attention we've caused ourselves much misery before coming around to accept that she was right. Read her and realize what a national treasure she's been. We shall not see her like again. We are all, in some sense, her children.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A+)

  

Websites:

See also:

Phyllis Schlafly (2 books reviewed)
Gender Issues
Phyllis Schlafly Links:
    -Phyllis Schlafly (Naomi B. Lynn, Distinguished Women of Past and Present)
    -Eagle Forum : Leading the Pro-Family Movement since 1972
    -SCHLAFLY, PHYLLIS (1924- ) COLLECTION, 1972-1982 (WESTERN HISTORICAL MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI-ST. LOUIS)
    -ARCHIVES : Phyllis Schlafly Column (Eagle Forum)
    -ARCHIVES : Phyllis Schlafly (TownHall.com Columnists)
    -ESSAY : The Real Lesson Of 9/11: A Disarmed Public Cannot Protect A Free Society (Phyllis Schlafly, November 1, 2001, Toogood Reports)
    -ESSAY : Who Is Hillary? : Macho Feminist in the White House (Phyllis Schlafly, FrontPageMagazine.com | September 21, 2000)
    -ESSAY : BEATING THE BRA BURNERS : Fifteen years ago, ladies in red halted the equal rights amendment. A conservative leader gleefully remembers. (Phyllis Schlafly, June 1997, George)
    -ESSAY : A Short History of E.R.A. (Phyllis Schlafly, September 1986)
    -TESTIMONY : Testimony to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions re: Channel One (Phyllis Schlafly, President, Eagle Forum, May 20, 1999)
    -TESTIMONY : STATEMENT BY PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY TO THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON COURTS AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY (March 20, 1997)
    -CHAT : Online Chat Session with Phyllis Schlafly (March 7, 1997, Townhall)
    -INTERVIEW : Phyllis Schlafly says... "The pro-choice Republicans have lost their principal argument." (Kathryn Jean Lopez, 3/24/00, National Review)
    -PROFILE: Call her Mrs. (Ann Coulter, July 18, 2002)
    Phyllis Schlafly: The big eagle (January 30, 2003)
    -PROFILE: Schlafly: Foiling feminists for 20 years (Robert Stacy McCain, January 29, 2003, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
    ERA Anniversary Renews Familiar Arguments (Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, January 31, 2003, FOX News)
    -PROFILE: Phyllis Schlafly says American women are the 'most privileged in the world'--without the ERA (WILLIAM McFADIN, Alton Telegraph)
    The Week's Famous and Infamous Women: Anti-Feminist Phyllis Schlafly (1924-) (Women's Stories)
    -PROFILE : Phyllis Schlafly, Cyber Warrior (Ashley Craddock, March 31, 1997, Wired)
    -ESSAY : Painting a poor picture of Phyllis : NU liberals speak out against Schlafly (Marc Lummis, 03-02-2001, Northwestern Chronicle)
    -ESSAY : fear and loathing and phyllis schlafly (justin hall)
    -ESSAY : Goldwater and the True Believers (Rightist Movements in the U.S., Public Eye)

Book-related and General Links:

Comments:

LWD- I fixed the comments so that they'll retain your formatting.

SJ

- The Other Brother

- Feb-17-2003, 04:41

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Most men don't pull in enough money for their wives to stay home. I don't know why conservatives won't acknowledge that fact.

- Troy

- Feb-13-2003, 02:55

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P.S. It would sure be nice if this comment utility of yours allowed paragraph breaks. My long response above is nearly unreadable because none of my breaks were kept in place. Cold Fusion is capable of handling this.

- LWD

- Feb-11-2003, 19:58

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I must take issue with two of your statements:

"Even before Ronald Reagan...her victory signalled the turning of the liberal tide and the return of the United States to its more conservative norm."

I do not think that there is quite such a thing as a "conservative norm" in the US, unless you are referring to the tendency of whoever's in power to try to keep that power as long as they can (and to stock up the money for their eventual disempowerment).

Many things happened in the first 75 years of the 20th century in American politics, and even incidents that on the surface seem to betray a deep conservatism can be dissected and shown as being rather radical in light of the nation's earlier history and the history of the world.

In those years women got the vote, Prohibition was enforced and then overturned, Roosevelt's social programs kept tens of millions fed and productive (while crippling industry), we fought five major wars, each of which (whatever valid reasons were there to fight them) could be seen as imperialistic maneuvers disguised as "the protection of liberty."

We developed and used the atomic and hydrogen bombs. Labor unions grew strong, Un-American activities become a buzzword, civil rights were finally unambiguously declared and rather violently implemented, we had a space program and went to the moon, the children of immigrants slammed the door to a new generation of asylum seekers, President Johnson instituted a "Great Society", and on and on.

To my eye that cavalcade shows a rapidly oscillating feedback loop of reactionism. For every agressive move there's a corresponding accedance; for everything that empowered Americans as a group there was something that diminished citizens as individuals. This is not conservatism by either the classical or new-speak definitions. It is radicalism of two sorts in a never-ending pas-de-deux.

Schafly is the acid to many others' base, and that is all. The most remarkable thing about her (and she is indeed remarkable) is that she *does* stand so alone, as you note. That does not have much to do with the failures of liberalism, as you infer, but with the unwillingness of conservatives to allow a women to have any sort of real power.

You could make a long list of liberal women politicians not as famous as Schafly, but their lack of fame bespeaks that they are far from being unique among their peers any more; Schafly's fame comes from being a single woman buoyed up by a huge machine that continues to play her as the "but *she's* a woman too!" card.

Schafly didn't get her blessing until the good old boys were absolutely sure that she would not use her position to gain the public's ear and then turn on her sponsors (as I'm sure was repeated many time behind closed doors: "You know how women are!")

Also, you wrote:

"...there's Mrs. Schlafly, mother of six and architect of a career that most people can only dream about, to remind us all that this isn't something that "happened to" women, but something they did to themselves, because they thought they could overcome human nature and the maternal instinct."

I won't get long-winded on this. I'll just point out that neither human nature nor the "maternal instinct" were interfered with by the Equal Rights Amendment or by any of the work done to ensure that American citizens who happen to be women have no fewer rights or responsibilities than their male counterparts.

As for delaying childbearing...you would be unable to produce any sort of verifiable statistic on the number of women who both a) delayed childrearing for career and then b) regretted it. It's a straw man, a construct, and a useful one, too...if you are seeking to bolster Schafly's sometimes comical role in American politics, along with the pseudo-biblical ideas about "a woman's place.".

- LWD

- Feb-11-2003, 19:57

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