Phyllis Schlafly, one of the 20th-century’s most influential female leaders, passed away on September 5. She endured a long battle with cancer. Schlafly was surrounded by her family in her Ladue, Missouri home at the time of her passing.
Unknown to many Americans born after the Reagan administration, Phyllis Schlafly was a conservative lawyer who remained an important member of the Republican Party. Her book, A Choice Not an Echo (1964), is credited with bolstering conservative Republican Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. Her most famous achievement, however, was her role in preventing the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) of the 1970s. Her support for traditional gender roles and her opposition to the feminist movement and abortion rights, paired with her sharp wit and sense of humor, catapulted her to the (unofficial) role of First Lady of the conservative movement.
There is no question that Phyllis Schlafly was a divisive character. While she was revered by the conservative community, she was equally reviled by the left. Feminist icon Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique and champion of the ERA, once told Schlafly during a debate that she’d “like to burn [Schlafly] at the stake.” Schlafly also had a pie smashed in her face and, worse, had pig blood dumped on her at an event.
Schlafly is still unpopular with liberals today. When news broke of her death, Twitter feeds around the country erupted. One user posted that Schlafly was “a horrible person.” Another hoped that “there was a pillow over Phyllis Schlafly’s face” when she died. Others insisted that Schlafly was the spawn of Satan.
Regardless of one’s political leanings, this rotten, irresponsibly hurtful rhetoric should not be coming out of the mouths– or keyboards– of anyone regarding the loss of human life. Throwing pies and pig blood were immature and regrettable acts. Celebrating the death of a woman who loved her family and her country is just plain wrong. Sometimes (or most of the time), Americans become so caught up in defending their sides of arguments that they forget that no matter which politician just died, no matter what they did, they have children and grandchildren who are mourning the loss of someone they love.
Though Phyllis Schlafly was divisive, she was also a bright, energetic woman who fought for what she believed was right. Liberal or conservative, decency and compassion should be the response to death; not cheering and mocking. Schlafly, regardless of her ideas about gendered roles for women, was one of the 20th-century’s strongest female leaders and she deserves respect from both sides of the aisle, especially at the time of her passing.
(Copyright 2016 Harry Moore)