What Happened To Phyllis Schlafly — & Her Anti-Feminist Movement — After Her STOP ERA Campaign

Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images.
Considering all the indoors time we have on our hands these days, there's no such thing as too many new shows, which means you definitely have time to check out Hulu and FX's star-studded new series, Mrs. America. Now streaming, the new series tells the story of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) — a proposed amendment that would have guarantee the rights of all Americans regardless of sex. By all accounts, its ratification should have been a slam dunk. But its eventual demise is explored in Mrs. America through the lens of various historical figures, including politician Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), feminist activists Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) and Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), and conservative anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) — the titular Mrs. America. Schlafly, for the record, is the one widely credited with stopping the ERA from being ratified.
Advertisement
Woman on the move Schlafly was an author and activist, who made it her antithetical mission to stop the ERA from becoming the 27th Amendment to the Constitution in the 1970s. After the ERA was passed by the House and Senate, it was sent to the states for ratification. This is where Schlafly's movement, STOP ERA (later renamed Eagle Forum) came in. Schlafly was able to convince conservative women that stopping the ERA was the real way to fight for their rights and that those who wanted it passed were unrelatable elites. Passing the amendment could mean women would be subject to the military draft, that same-sex marriage would exist, that same-sex bathrooms would be the norm, and that abortions would increase. She argued that it was women's right to be housewives if that was their choice (this was, for the record, not something the ERA would have outlawed).
It worked. The ERA wasn't ratified.
And though Schlafly passed away in September 2016 at the age of 92, but her pervasive rhetoric remains. She pushed the Republican party further right on women's issues at a time when the platform was "relatively liberal," per Vox. She's been influential to conservative women lobbyists, female leaders of conservative organizations, and conservative women pundits. Look no further than notorious conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who wrote the foreword for Schlafly's book Feminist Fantasies.
Advertisement
Before she passed away, Schlafly was a staunch Donald Trump supporter, and introduced him at an event during his presidential campaign. Oh, and Eagle Forum still exists as a website, special interest group, and political action committee (PAC). Fear not: The irony that Schlafly accomplished so much while fighting for women to stay home as housewives wasn't lost on her critics.
In a preview for Mrs. America, series creator Dahvi Waller explained the extent of Schlafly's influence: "The series became about much more than the ERA amendment fight ... it became about the extension of the religious right in this country and the culture wars that still plague us today."
And while you may be coming to the show to cheer on Byrne's Gloria Steinem and other feminist leaders, the creator says the show is meant to play differently depending on each viewer's personal politics.
"If you're on one side of the political divide you're watching the rise of a superhero," Waller explained, referring to Blanchett as Schlafly. "And if you’re on the other side of the political divide, you're watching the rise of a super villain."
And depending at how you look at our current political landscape, the series could shape up to be something even scarier. While some of the things Schlafly railed against — like same-sex marriage and gender neutral bathrooms — have been signed into law, we still don't have an Equal Rights Amendment. Her influence lives on.
Related Content:

More from TV

R29 Original Series

Advertisement