Many of us remember Phyllis Schlafly, who died Monday, as an antifeminist, anti-LGBT, and generally far-right activist — but according to Donald Trump, whom she had endorsed for president, she was “a champion for women.”
The Republican presidential nominee memorialized Schlafly in this statement on his campaign website:
“Phyllis Schlafly is a conservative icon who led millions to action, reshaped the conservative movement, and fearlessly battled globalism and the ‘kingmakers’ on behalf of America’s workers and families. I was honored to spend time with her during this campaign as she waged one more great battle for national sovereignty. I was able to speak with her by phone only a few weeks ago, and she sounded as resilient as ever. Our deepest prayers go out to her family and all her loved ones. She was a patriot, a champion for women, and a symbol of strength. 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.”
So just how was this woman so admired by Trump — a man known for misogynistic rhetoric — a champion for women? Well, she’s most famous for fighting the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have added these words to the U.S. Constitution: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” When Schlafly began her Stop ERA campaign in 1972, the ERA had been passed by both houses of Congress and ratified by 30 states out of the 38 needed to be added to the Constitution, The Washington Post notes in its obituary. By saying the ERA would lead to — gasp! — same-sex marriage and unisex restrooms, Schlafly helped keep the amendment from gaining the necessary number of state ratifications by the 1982 deadline.
During the Stop ERA campaign and as head of Eagle Forum, the ultraconservative organization that grew out of it, Schlafly constantly preached that a woman’s place was in the home — even though the demands of her career as an activist led her to hire a full-time housekeeper to help care for the six Schlafly children. And although she ran (unsuccessfully) for Congress in the 1950s and ’60s and praised Sarah Palin’s nomination for vice president in 2008, she said in 2010 that no woman was ready to be president.
Schlafly opposed Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in education. She opposed abortion rights. She opposed the idea that jobs held mainly by women were of “comparable worth” to those held mainly by men and should carry equal pay; she said women were just “envious” of men’s higher wages. And she said the fact that men earn more than women was a good thing, as it would encourage women to marry. Although she earned a master’s degree in political science in 1945, she was “saved from the life as a working girl,” she said, by her marriage to lawyer Fred Schlafly in 1949.
She made clear that men were the boss of their wives; in the 1970s, she wanted to go to law school, but her husband initially objected, so she put it off until he changed his mind. She also once said married women had no right to charge their husbands with rape, because “by getting married, the woman has consented to sex.”
On sexual harassment, she gave the following testimony to a U.S. Senate committee in 1981:
“Sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women, except in the rarest of cases. Men hardly ever ask for sexual favors from women from whom the certain answer is no. Virtuous women are seldom accosted by unwelcome sexual propositions or familiarities, obscene talk or profane language.”
Along with her opposition to feminist causes, Schlafly equally opposed LGBT equality; she also claimed most women in the feminist movement were lesbians, and she didn’t mean that as a compliment. She even opposed some moves for racial justice. “At the 1960 Republican National Convention, she helped lead a revolt of conservatives against an anti-segregation and anti-discrimination plank in the party’s platform,” the Post obituary notes.
Schlafly reciprocated Trump’s admiration for her. In memorializing her, Trump promoted her latest book, which came out today — and it’s about him.
As a tribute to the late, great Phyllis Schlafly, I hope everybody can go out and get her latest book, THE CONSERVATIVE CASE FOR TRUMP.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2016
But despite his professed respect for Schlafly, Trump, who often has spelling and usage errors in his tweets, initially didn’t get her name right, Mic reports. An early version of his tweet, now deleted, called her “Phillies Schlafly.”