Phyllis Schlafly Was Not A Feminist

On Monday, conservative activist and organizer Phyllis Schlafly passed away at her home in St. Louis, Missouri. She was 92 years old and had reportedly suffered from cancer, but still remained committed to her work as a political activist until the end. And if there's one thing you ought to know about that work, it's that Schlafly was definitely not a feminist.

In fact, it was Schlafly's anti-feminist beliefs that helped to cement her place in American history. She lived much of her life during a time when the radical feminist movement was very different from the widespread feminism we see in society today (although who knows if that would have made any difference in her beliefs). While activists like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan were happy to embrace the label of feminist, Schlafly was happy to coin her own labels — most notably defining herself as an anti-feminist and a pro-life activist. While Friedan and Steinem founded feminist organizations like the National Organization for Women and the National Women's Political Caucus, Schlafly founded an organization of her own: the pro-family and anti-feminist Eagle Forum. She remained involved in the organization's leadership until she died, and it was the Eagle Forum that publicly confirmed Schlafly's death on Monday.

Schlafly didn't often speak kindly about feminists. And her definition of the feminist movement may have differed greatly from what many modern feminists consider the movement today. For instance, Schlafly has been quoted as saying, "Men should stop treating feminists like ladies, and instead treat them like the men they say they want to be." She also reportedly claimed that feminists were carrying out a "war on men."

Perhaps Schlafly's most blatant act of anti-feminism was her opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) during the 1970s. She created an anti-ERA organization called STOP ERA and she is often credited with single-handedly preventing the amendment from passing. She feared at the time that the ERA would threaten the idea of the American homemaker and pave the way for measures like the legalization of abortion and gay marriage.

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images News/Getty Images

It was also during the 1970s that Schlafly founded the Eagle Forum, the advocacy organization that still exists and carries out her conservative agenda to this day. Ultimately, Schlafly did not identify as a feminist, but rather as a vehement anti-feminist. As such, she became an influential figure among some of the Republican Party's more socially conservative members and remained involved in conservative politics until her death.