Eleanor Schlafly Never Married, But Her Legacy Still Lives On

Jeanne Tripplehorn in Mrs America from FX

In the series finale of Mrs. America, Phyllis Schlafly’s pitiable sister-in-law Eleanor, played with rending quiet by Jeanne Tripplehorn, is allowed a glimmer of hope. After listening to a banquet speech in which Phyllis thanks almost everyone in her family for their support except Eleanor, she bumps into a good-looking, sharply dressed man who notices her enough to strike up a conversation. The implication, it seems, is that Eleanor may not be so invisible to everyone as she is to Phyllis throughout most of the show's nine episodes.

But among the Schlafly family and its defenders, Mrs. America’s portrayal of Fred Schlafly’s youngest sibling has been a cause for upset. Eleanor’s niece Anne Schlafly Cori rejects the depiction of her aunt “as a dowdy, put-upon spinster.” Donald Critchlow, Phyllis’ friend and biographer, told The Federalist that far from being the guest at the party without a conversation partner, “Eleanor Schlafly had her own very active social life in St. Louis.”

She also appears to have had her own very active political life, according to her 2018 obituary. Along with Fred and Phyllis, Eleanor was a co-founder and the longstanding executive director of the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, a Catholic non-profit established to fight Communism and “promote traditional religious, family, social, and patriotic values” by publishing newsletters and running educational workshops. In 1982, her foundation formally challenged Paramount Pictures to cancel the release of the Warren Beatty film Reds on the grounds it “falsely portrays the Communist system as benevolent and falsely portrays the Communist state as a workers' paradise.'' Eleanor remained at the helm of the organization until 2012, when she stepped down at the age of 92.

It was hardly her first foray into civic life. After graduating from St. Louis University in 1942, Eleanor served with the American Red Cross, volunteering with soldiers after World War II. Later, in the 1950s, she moved to New York City to begin working for the Assembly of Captive European Nations, a CIA-backed coalition committed to liberating eastern European nations from Soviet rule — the same cause she would dedicate herself to through the Minsdszenty Foundation when she returned to Missouri.

And while it may be accurate that Eleanor Schlafly never married or had children of her own, she had 14 nephews and nieces and a CV that boasted enough memberships and board appointments to keep busy, including Junior League, the St. Louis Symphony Society and the Cardinal Glennon's Children's Hospital.