Nation: Anti-ERA Evangelist Wins Again

Nation: Anti-ERA Evangelist Wins Again
Feminine but forceful, Phyllis Schlafly is a very liberated womanLooking crisp and composed in a red shirtwaist dress, red-white-and-blue
scarf and frosted hair, Phyllis Schlafly arrived last week at the
Illinois capitol with 500 followers. To symbolize their opposition to
the Equal Rights Amendment, which was about to be voted on in the
house, the women had brought loaves of home-baked bread—apricot, date
nut, honey-bran and pumpkin. But as she climbed onto a kitchen stool to
address the cheering crowd, Schlafly the demure housewife turned into
Schlafly the aggressive polemicist. The passage of ERA, she declared,
would mean Government-funded abortions, homosexual schoolteachers,
women forced into military combat and men refusing to support their
wives.For the past six years, Schlafly, 53, has been delivering similar
exhortations to similar gatherings, helping to turn public opinion
against ERA, which is still three states short of ratification. After
passing 35 state legislatures in five years, ERA was defeated last year
in Nevada, North Carolina, Florida and Illinois. Last week the
amendment lost once again in Illinois when the house narrowly defeated
it. With no other state legislature scheduled to vote on ERA, the
amendment will expire on March 22, 1979 unless Congress agrees to
extend the deadline.ERA'S decline has been largely the result of Schlafly's small but highly disciplined organizations, Stop ERA and Eagle
Forum. While the feminists have splintered over the issues of abortion
and lesbian rights, Schlafly's troops have centered their efforts on
ERA. They have evolved into a formidable lobbying force, allied with
local and national right-wing groups, including HOW and AWARE .Flying from state capital to state cap ital, the savvy, disarming
Schlafly matches the feminists' rhetoric phrase for phrase. She bluntly
proclaims that “all sensible people are against ERA,” and dismisses the
liberationists as “a bunch of bitter women seeking a constitutional
cure for their personal problems.” In many of her speeches, she
continues to insist that “women find their greatest fulfillment at home
with their family.”Schlafly, however, is hardly a typical housewife. Author of nine books,
a three-time candidate for the U.S. Congress, full-time law student at
Washington University in St. Louis, editor of a monthly newsletter,
twice-a-week syndicated newspaper columnist and regular speaker at
anti-ERA rallies, she acts very much like a liberated woman. By her own
reckoning, she is away from her family at least once a week. She
employs a full-time housekeeper to care for her six-bedroom Tudor-style
mansion overlooking the Mississippi River in Alton, 111.How does Schlafly reconcile her career with her stay-at-home dogma?
“My husband lets me do what I want to do,” she says. “I have canceled
speeches whenever my husband thought that I had been away from home too
much.” Besides, she adds, “when I fill out applications, I put down
'mother' as my occupation.” She boasts that she breast-fed every one of
her six children and later taught each of them how to read. Says she:
“I work all the time. I'm organized. I've learned to budget every