Phyllis Schlafly, ‘Mrs. America,’ Was a Secret Member of the John Birch SocietyRoundup
tags: conservatism, far right, feminism, John Birch Society, Equal Rights Amendment, antifeminism, Phyllis Schafly
Ronald Radosh, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, is author of a history of the Democratic Party and many other books.
Phyllis Schlafly was a secret member of the John Birch Society, the far-right group infamous for its support of segregation and its belief that a communist conspiracy had taken over the United States, according to documents newly obtained by researcher Ernie Lazar through FOIA requests.
Schlafly, who died in 2016, is most famous for her rear-guard fight that defeated the Equal Rights Amendment intended to guarantee legal gender equality for women and men after it had been approved in both the House and the Senate, backed by President Richard Nixon and ratified by 35 of the 38 states needed.
Throughout her life, Schlafly insisted she had never been part of the far-right group , as in a 1975 New York Times article that noted "Mrs. Schlafly's opponents have hinted in the past that her campaign was financed by money from the John Birch Society. She denies it, as well as, denying having ever belonged to the ultraconservative organization."
Contradicting that claim was none other than the founder and chief of the Society, candy manufacturer Robert Welch, who referred to Schlafly as “a very loyal member of the Birch Society” in the February 1960 issue of the JBS Bulletin. But with Schlafly herself insisting otherwise, that could hardly be considered definitive.
Schlafly denied to the end that she ever was a JBS member. I speculate that because it was because the group was so widely mocked and reviled — including in the Bob Dylan song Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues and The John Birch Society by the Chad Mitchell Trio, then featuring John Denver, both issued in 1962 — that she feared the association would have damaged first Goldwater and then her anti-ERA campaign. After that, perhaps it was too late for her to admit the deception now fully exposed by the new documents shared by Lazar.
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