“She won at life” said a writer last week in talking about my mother, Phyllis Schlafly. What a great line! On this Mother’s Day, nearly three years after her passing, several commentators have recently written that Phyllis Schlafly was so unusual that she was an outlier and the New York Times even dared to ask, “Where is the Phyllis Schlafly of our time”?
Any woman can win at life in the way Phyllis Schlafly won, including you. How did she do it?
My mother was remarkable because she combined the roles of wife, mother, writer, and community organizer. She built an organization, Eagle Forum, that provided inspiration to countless women. My mother was able to accomplish so much because she did her work sequentially and she never tried to do everything all at the same time. As my mother told me shortly before she died, “I’ve had a wonderful life.”
Phyllis Schlafly believed that any woman could find the same happiness that she found.
She was able to succeed for several reasons:
- She chose to enter the fray and put herself out there in the public sphere. Even though she started out shy and bookish, she learned to speak up and speak out.
- She became the standard bearer for conservative women only because no one else had stepped forward. She used her position to activate many women in starting and leading new organizations.
- She was motivated to turn ideas into action. She was more than a thinker; she was a doer.
- She was willing to take the slings and arrows of the opposition. She relished her outsider status and never tried to become an “insider.” Her outsider status liberated her to speak her mind freely.
Phyllis Schlafly excelled at mentoring young women who worked for her and counted her as an inspiration. She believed and repeatedly taught that leaders were not born but made. She gave countless speeches on how to be a leader in any area. She paved a way for successive generations of female leaders. We do not have a dearth of female leaders today, but a legacy of women who are willing to express conservative ideas in the public arena.
A multitude of conservative women have spoken up and spoken out in the last fifty years. We all know that we will be attacked just because we are conservative women, but we also know that we can respond with a gracious smile the way we were taught by Phyllis Schlafly. Yes, my mother charted a course and paved the way for conservative women to be confident in public and join the discourse. My mother was vilified for her successes, but no slur never bothered her. She had confidence in herself, she believed in her ideas, and she truly enjoyed the limelight.
Some have called Phyllis Schlafly a “problematic woman”. I called her my mom and she mentored me. She was a great role model because she taught me not to be afraid but to speak up and speak out. She taught me how to stand up to bullies.
Today on Mother’s Day, I thank my mother for her leadership and mentoring. I encourage every woman to be as brave as Phyllis Schlafly.