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Schlafly the Homemaker

By Frank E. Lockwood

YOU'LL find Phyllis Stewart Schlafly in Radcliffe's alumnae directory, tucked in between an environmental educator named Schirmer and an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission. Schlafly, who received her Harvard masters in 1945, the directory says, is a "homemaker".

When Schlafly was studying in Cambridge, Harvard was still a bastion of conservatism: students at this school favored Dewey in 1948 and voted against FDR four times. The school has moved sharply to the left in the past 40 years, however. Schlafly says Harvard's professors are now out of step with the nation. "There are so many liberals. They have stacked up the faculty with liberals and it's very difficult for a little clique," Schlafly said in an interview last week.

If Schlafly has her way, that tight little clique--and Governor Dukakis--will stay right here in Massachusetts, as far away from Washington, D.C. as possible.

In the 1970s, Schlafly stunned the National Organization for Women (NOW) and a liberal congress by derailing the Equal Rights Amendment. Schlafly led Stop ERA, the grass-roots organization which helped convince state legislatures from Illinois to Florida to vote against the ERA, and persuaded others to rescind their support.

Now, five years after the deadline for ratifying the ERA, Schlafly maintains that the controversial amendment won't be revived any time soon. "It's dead," she said in an interview last week. "It's just a fundraiser for NOW--that's all it is.

THIS week Schlafly is once again making her presence felt on the national political scene as she is attending the Republican National Convention in New Orleans. She's confident that there won't be any attempt to add a plank supporting ERA to the Republican platform. The party of Lincoln once supported the measure, but changed its stance in 1980.

The conservative activist, whose allies once claimed ERA would give America co-ed bathrooms and force women to serve in combat alongside men, is confident that her archfoes--the feminists--have been beaten. "There was very much debate from 1972 to 1976 and nobody wants it," Schlafly said. She called ERA "a rule that will require us to pretend that there's no difference between men and women."

The Reverend Jesse Jackson was cheered wildly by Democratic party activists when he called for continuing the fight for ERA, but most Americans don't seem to share that enthusiasm. Voters in Maine and liberal Vermont, the latest to consider referendums on the proposal, handed feminists two more defeats. Schlafly says Americans don't want to endorse what she calls the "hidden agenda" of ERA activists. If passed, the law will be used to mandate "taxpayer-funded abortions and gay rights," she said.

She is, to say the least, a member of the Republican party's right-wing, a wing which has already suggested that it doesn't plan to stay quiet during this week's GOP convention.

ORIGINALLY a supporter of Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), Schlafly is now a staunch Bush-backer. "Liberal Democrats are for higher taxes so federal bureaucrats can decide what we do and spend our money. Under George Bush's philosophy, we'll clearly get to spend more of our own money," she said.

For years, Schlafly has battled the liberals--even Republican liberals. In the 1960s, Schlafly was an outspoken critic of Rockefeller Republicans and the Eastern Establishment which once dominated the party. Schlafly was one of the women the press dubbed "little old ladies in tennis shoes" who helped guide Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater to the Republican nomination in 1964.

After Goldwater's landslide loss to Lyndon Johnson, Schlafly looked to another conservative to help solve "the mess in Washington." And after seven-and-a-half years at the helm, Reagan hasn't disappointed this homemaker. "I'm terribly pleased with Reagan. I think he's the greatest thing of this century," Schlafly said.

She credits Reagan with restoring the country's economy and its self-respect. Reagan "gave this country a new confidence....He believed in American and in our future and he conveyed that to the American people."

Having slain the ERA, Schlafly is now taking on new dragons. She heads the Eagle Forum, a conservative women's political group with 80,000 members and she's working on "about a dozen political issues right now, including the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and educational issues.

She'll also be working to keep Gov. Michael S. Dukakis out of the White House. Noting Dukakis' one-time support for prison furlough programs, Schlafly scoffs at the notion that the Duke can win by stressing competence and playing down ideology. "If he wants to fight on competence, I think he's going to come out the loser on that," she predicts.

SOME Bush supporters are worried about the "gender gap," which shows women favoring Dukakis by a wider margin than men. Schlafly stresses that the Democrats have a gender gap of their own. "George Bush appeals to men," she maintains. The Texan stands for economic freedom and low taxes and will guarantee economic prosperity, Schlafly says.

Bush currently trails Dukakis by up to 18 points in some national polls, a fact that frightens some Republican strategists. To add excitement to the campaign and to woo women voters, some Republicans are suggesting that Bush pick women as his running mate: perhaps former Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole, Kansas Senator Nancy Kassebaum or former United Nations Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick.

Schlafly isn't rooting for a female running mate in '88--she wants to see Kemp on the ticket instead. "I don't see one woman who would add significantly to the vote total, and I think Jack Kemp would add significantly," she said.

A loyal Catholic and a mother of six, Schlafly is an outspoken critic of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision which threw out all anti-abortion laws and mandated abortion-on-demand. But, unlike New Hampshire Senator Gordon Humphrey, she isn't bothered that some prominent pro-choice Republicans are being given high-profile speaking slots at the convention. "I'm very tolerant. It's okay with me if people who are for abortion support George Bush: it's not going to affect George Bush's positions [on abortion], however," Schlafly said.

Schlafly knows what she is talking about, for she is a homemaker who has convinced many to change their positions.

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