Phyllis Schlafly was an important figure in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment, and she convinced LDS leaders to oppose the amendment. Dr. Taylor Petry will tell us more about how LDS messages have changed over the decades with regards to feminism and the sexual revolution.
Taylor: Phyllis Schlafly becomes the most famous anti-feminist during this time period. Schlafly is a Catholic, and she sees something that had been happening in the broader conservative religious world at the time, where there had been a backlash to the kinds of feminism that was arising. But it hadn’t really been organized as a political movement. So she sees that evangelicals and Protestant fundamentalists and even Mormons, are opposing feminism. She says we need to unite all of these people into a single coalition that will be able to speak for our values. The big issue of the time period is the Equal Rights Amendment. The Equal Rights Amendment was hugely popular among Democrats and Republicans.
All the Republicans at the outset of it passing in Congress, were ecstatic about it, and then it needs to march through the states. Immediately it’s passed by the first 32 states within the first year or something like that. That’s when the opposition really gets going. When the Stop ERA movement that Phyllis Schlafly is organizing and pulling together–all the sort of anti-feminist groups into a political coalition and the Church gets involved. [The Church] is specifically recruited by Phyllis Schlafly to get involved in this fight. [The Church] politically mobilizes, for the first time in decades at that point. The Church had not really seen itself as having a political mission. Even during ERA, at the very beginning, if you asked church leaders in the first couple of years that the ERA was a public topic, in the early 70s–the ERA had been around since the 1920s. But it really kind of gets going in the early 70s. It was supposed to be the sort of follow-up to the civil rights amendments or civil rights movements of the 1960s. So now it’s the feminists turn, so the Church gets recruited to do this and reverses itself because at first it was a no, this is a political issue. We don’t comment on political issues. We just care about moral issues, not political ones. But Phyllis Schlafly convinces the church that this is a moral issue, that it’s not just a political issue. So the Church decides to mobilize its membership in this political fight, and they start sending members to ERA conventions to shout down the leaders that are there, and to disrupt the meetings. The Church’s, nearly decade long, it lasted about eight years, fight against the Equal Rights Amendment until it was finally defeated in 1982, decisively. This was one of the major ways that the church gets involved in the anti-feminist movement.
We’ll also talk about changing attitudes with regards to birth control, and how feminism was tied to lesbians. Were you aware that Schlafly changed Kimball’s mind on the Equal Rights Amendment? Check out our conversation….