- Series: Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America
- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1st Printing edition (September 11, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691070024
- ISBN-13: 978-0691070025
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #699,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade (Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America) 1st Printing Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Betty Friedan once snapped at Phyllis Schlafly, "I'd like to burn you at the stake." And this engaging, if flawed, biography of the doyenne of U.S. conservatism during the heated early 1970s makes it clear why: it's not just Schlafly's far-right stands on feminism and reproductive rights, but her formidable debating skills and political organizing experience. Critchlow (a professor of history at St. Louis University) draws widely on both unlimited access to his subject's private papers and a broad range of other social documents. And there's much here that is fascinating, such as a mesmerizing account of Schlafly's place in the byzantine infighting of Catholic anticommunist groups in the early 1960s. But the book wavers between being a sustained account of Schlafly's career and a comprehensive political history of the conservative and religious right—and delivers fully on neither. Further, Critchlow's detached and even tone reflects none of the political passion that gripped Schlafly's life and work. While this may be a historian's attempt at objectivity, it often makes Schlafly less compelling, even at her most politically extreme—when she said the 1960s race riots were led, in part, by "federally funded poverty workers." (Oct.)
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"[This] new political biography . . . by Donald Critchlow, follows Schlafly from her birth to the present day--at eighty-one, she is still putting out the Report. Critchlow, a history professor at Saint Louis University, argues for the exemplarity of Schlafly's life, which, he claims, parallels the rise of American conservatism."--Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker
"In Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism, Donald T. Critchlow uses the career of the woman feminists love to hate as a lens through which to examine the neglected history of grassroots conservatism in postwar America. Critchlow combines scholarly rigor with fine prose to produce the best book ever written on this subject."--Bracy Bersnak, American Spectator
"Had Schlafly been a figure of the Left, this book extolling her remarkable achievements would join a bookcase of similar flattering portraits acknowledging her as one of the most influential Americans in the second half of the 20th century. But because her influence prevented a destructive feminist agenda from being enshrined in the Constitution, she has had to wait 50 years for this book--the work of a respectful academic who has delved into the archives to tell an important untold story."--Kate O'Beirne, National Review
"In this riveting, valuable book, Donald Critchlow makes the case for a Great Woman theory of history."--Charlotte Allen, First Things
"Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade, by Donald T. Critchlow is a biography of a conservative, activist woman leader and the history of the grassroots minions she organized, almost single-handedly transforming the image of a conservative woman from the little old lady in tennis shoes, searching for communists under her bed, to a movement of well-organized, sophisticated women volunteers who moved into party politics. She may be the only woman of the late 20th century who could be accurately called as influential as Susan B. Anthony."--Suzanne Fields, Washington Times
"Critchlow has provided an important and compelling new exploration of the rise of the postwar right."--Catherine E. Rymph, Reviews in American History
"As Donald T. Critchlow explains in impressive detail . . . two decades of experience in Republican politics, including a pair of unsuccessful congressional campaigns, taught [Phyllis Schlafly] how to craft arguments that would stir a wide audience, how to focus on hot-button issues and talking points, how to choose appealing representatives to make a case, and the importance of organizing at a local level and working tirelessly to fire up the troops."--Frederic D. Schwarz, American Heritage
"[Phyllis Schlafly] is now . . . the subject if an overdue biography, and fortunately it hasn't been written by a women's studies professor who hates her. Donald T. Critchlow . . . treats Schlafly with the respect she deserves. He enjoyed exclusive access to her personal files and provides genuine insights into her life and times."--Charlotte Hays, DC Examiner
"Critchlow has written a fine, and long overdue, biography of this activist from Alton, Illinois. He has also chronicled the rise of the modern American conservative movement after the Goldwater debacle. His is a bottom-up history of grassroots political organizing, and the role women played in it, and a top-down tale of the woman who led it. . . . [A] truly compelling account."--Karlyn Bowman, The Weekly Standard
"Donald Critchlow's heavily footnoted Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade is as much a history of red-state conservatism as it is a biography of a conservative blue-staters love to hate. Particularly when viewed through the prism of gender politics, Mrs. Schlafly's accomplishment is remarkable. . . . . Mrs. Schlafly took a movement of lumpen proletariat and brought it the center of American power and institutions."--Jessica Gavora, The New York Sun
"Donald Critchlow . . . has presented us with a comprehensive, meticulously researched and thoroughly readable biography. . . . Critchlow's book is likely to be the most comprehensive account of Schlafly's remarkable life for quite some time to come."--William A. Rusher, Claremont Review of Books
"Donald Critchlow . . . has written a worthy biography of the woman and her times. . . . By focusing on Schlafly and the grassroots conservative world she helped build, he challenges the knee-jerk idea that conservative foundations and think tanks wholly powered the resurgence of the right."--Abby Scher, The Public Eye
"Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism is a tour de force. By situating an important political figure in a broader social movement, Critchlow contributes greatly to our understanding of American politics in the last half of the twentieth century."--Jonathan J. Bean, H-Net Reviews
"Critchlow . . . fairly delineates [Schlafly's] beliefs and her objections to modern liberalism. It is a worthy contribution to the history of the conservative political movement."--University Bookman
"So influential has the Right been in shaping the American social and political culture in the last twenty-five years that one might be tempted to see its rise to power as inevitable. But as Donald T. Critchlow argues in his political biography of Phyllis Schlafly, one of the twentieth century's most influential conservatives, the emergence of the Right to a dominant position in national politics and in the Republican Party in the 1980s was an uneven process."--Sylvie Murray, American Historical Review
"Critchlow's account is an important achievement. Copiously researched and beautifully written, it makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of recent American political history."--Kenneth Osgood, American Communist History
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Top Customer Reviews
P.S. is definitely a landmark in the journey of American conservatism. Not only did she stand her ground against blood-thirsty libs and violent pacifists, she did it with brilliance, panache, and great sense of humor. A natural leader of a lady. And she didn't "marry" any Republican President along the way. She pushed America's issues trusting the people would support her: the grassroots. And sure she knows how to mobilize them. The Right will be orphaned when she leaves the scene, totally in the hands of the new Inquisition at the Left.
There are many nuggets in this thick history book, i.e. Alan Alda's appearance before the Illinois state to testify on behalf of ERA (the movement that wanted to make men out of women, disposing women of their privileges). Asked if he support his two daughters being drafted during a war, he answered emphatically "Yes", but added that his daughters would not enter the military even if drafted because they were pacifists, conscientious objectors. Great, just great, Mr Alda.
If i have come to love this woman it is not only because of her style, her intelligence, her power of endurance, her sagacity, though any one of these qualities would make it for me, but above all because of her sense of humor, which the Right lacks terribly so much, and consequently is paying dearly for it. At a rally: "First of all, I want to thank my husband Fred, for letting me come -Ialways like to say that, because it makes the libs so mad!"
Now, how can't you fall in love with this woman?!
Schlafly is the female new right activist who claims sole responsibility for defeating the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982. Previous biographies about her were blatantly partisan projects because their authors either attacked or fawned over their subject. The long-time far right activist engenders strong feelings among people familiar with her work; you either love or hate her.
Phyllis Schlafly first appeared in national politics in 1964. That year, she wrote `A choice: Not an echo' which tried to explain why Goldwater was the `sensible' choice. Yet, because Johnson then-rode public sympathy over the Kennedy assassination, he won a landslide and she temporarily receded from public view. After fallout with the National Federation of Republican Women, she formed her own women's organization, the Eagle Forum.
The Eagle Forum's veritable heyday came in the late 1970's/early 1980's when Schlafly came back onto the national stage. She became the New Right's favorite speaker against feminism/`Women's Lib'. Although Schlafly herself was a Harvard-trained lawyer and accomplished political activist, she instead emphasized that she was `just a housewife' who genuinely enjoyed mothering six kids. Schlafly consequently allowed the male conservatives to oppose ERA ratification efforts without themselves appearing sexist; `They' also supported women participating in politics.
This woman speaking out against women's liberation also made for effective media coverage because it exposed political divisions among women themselves. The women who joined anti-ERA ratification efforts were older, more religious and had less formal education than their pro-ERA counterparts. Viewing homemaking as their identity, `pro family' women felt that the ERA ultimately called their own self-worth into question. Because they were so content with their homemaking role they did not want to concede that the same role was fact limiting for other women who wanted something else/more and freedom to pursue their freedoms. Having strictly defined social and legal limits thus gave ERA opponents the illusion of security even if the world did not always run as smoothly.
Schlafly ironically has experienced her own sex discrimination. In spite of her best efforts, Ronald Reagan did not appoint her Secretary of Defense. She also has failed to get herself elected to public office. Despite MANY attempts made over the past 30 years---the `giant citizen base' which she always claims to speak on behalf of ultimately never transformed into electoral votes. These failures alternately prevent and save Schlafly from being held accountable by the `taxpayers'. She would not be able to function in an environment which demands a certain degree of party and/or ideological bipartisanship.
Schlafly's positions for creationism, one-size-fits all reading instruction, and opposition to vaccines are noticeably downplayed by many other conservatives. Many other conservatives know that those areas do not deliver enough voters in order for them to win an election. Because most people continue to support the `liberal' position in these areas, Schlafly's influence ironically is restricted to certain `women's issues'. For somebody who considers herself an `honorary male' such political limits must be the ultimate irony.
Critchlow notes that she continues to control the Eagle Forum, despite the token mentoring of younger conservative women who now join this organization through collegiate and youth chapters. The Eagle Forum remains an active force in American politics, but increasingly is being supplanted by `younger' organizations like the Independent Women's Forum who have a `fresh' appearance and concede the feminist movement has some merits such as the Independent Women's Forum. Because any organization needs regular officer elections/leadership changes in order to keep their group fresh and responsive to member needs and the charter, I am curious what will happen to the Eagle Forum when Schlafly dies?
He also examines the contradictions between Schafly's public gay-bashing and herself having a gay son. In 1992 John Schlafly was outed as gay, verifying that GLBT people do come from all families. Schlafly is the first to insist that she did everything `right' and promoted heterosexuality, but still cannot explain away her son's sexuality. Presently, Schlafly does less public attacking of gays than the other new right organizations, but she still labels them a threat---essentially labeling her own son a threat. John's public support for mom's political activities actually might belie a more complicated private relationship as a result.
This book's only real flaw is that in addition to a portrait of Schlafly, Critchlow then attempts to talk about the American right in general at some depth. He argues the conservative movement impacted American politics, even if not in the exact ways which the groups and/or public figures intended.
Although it's necessary to know that Schlafly's ultimate start in politics came as a researcher for the infamous red-hunter Senator Joseph McCarthy (R Wisconsin), a discussion of the right in general does not work in this same book. Agreeing that some comparison of leadership similarities and differences among other new right women is needed at some point, I think that he veered off his thesis during a lot of this other material and forgot what this particular book was supposed to be about during those points. These portions of his book are still scholarly, but subsequently become a case of trying to do too much with too little pages. Critchlow would have been better served by writing a second general book on the American right and gender.
Based on extensive archival research from various libraries and institutions, Critchlow's examination of Schlafly deserves the attention it has already received by the academic community and the press, including such publications as the New Yorker. This prestigious magazine included Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism as one of its fall book selections, which testifies to the book's important insights and balanced interpretation.