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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Phyllis Schlafly, who became a “founding mother” of the modern U.S. conservative movement by battling feminists in the 1970s and working tirelessly to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, died on Monday at the age of 92, her Eagle Forum group said.

Schlafly, who lived in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue, Missouri, died at her home in the presence of her family, Eagle Forum said in a statement. The cause of death was not given.

She was still a conservative force and popular speaker in her 90s, endorsing Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 and praising his policy on immigration. She was a delegate to the Republicans’ convention in Cleveland.

Trump said in a statement that he spoke with Schlafly a few weeks ago by telephone “and she sounded as resilient as ever … She was a patriot, a champion for women, and a symbol of strength.”

Schlafly once called feminists “a bunch of bitter women seeking a constitutional cure for their personal problems,” Time said, while insisting that “women find their greatest fulfillment at home with their family.”

Her political ardor did not fade with age and in 2014, as President Barack Obama pushed for pay equity for women, Schlafly sparked controversy with a column for the Christian Post saying a man’s paycheck comes first.

“The pay gap between men and women is not all bad because it helps to promote and sustain marriages,” she said. “… The best way to improve economic prospects for women is to improve job prospects for the men in their lives, even if that means increasing the so-called pay gap.”

Schlafly promoted traditional family values and once told a reporter that she always listed her occupation as “mother” when filling out applications. But she was hardly a typical stay-at-home housewife/mother.

Shortly after marrying lawyer Fred Schlafly in 1949, she became active in Republican Party politics in Alton, Illinois, and ran unsuccessfully for Congress twice. She would go on to found the Eagle Forum grass-roots conservative group, write a newspaper column and newsletter and author some 20 books.

Her crowning achievement was crusading to prevent the Equal Rights Amendment from being added to the U.S. Constitution and it made Schlafly a leader in the modern American conservative movement.

“Phyllis Schlafly courageously and single-handedly took on the issue of the Equal Rights Amendment when no one else in the country was opposing it,” said James C. Dobson, chairman and founder of Focus on the Family. “In so doing, she essentially launched the pro-family, pro-life movement.”

Biographer Donald T. Critchlow said defeating the ERA helped usher in a conservative era in American politics and boosted Ronald Reagan to the presidency.

In her decade-long fight against the ERA, Schlafly traveled across the country to speak at rallies and persuade state legislators not to approve the ERA.

Along the way she often debated feminist writer Betty Freidan, who called Schlafly “a traitor to her sex” and once told her: “I’d like to burn you at the stake.”

The intention of the ERA was to ensure women were treated the same as men under state and federal laws. Schlafly’s attack on the proposed amendment was based on the premise that the rights of women already were well protected by the U.S. Constitution. She said the ERA actually would erode women’s standing, leading to homosexual marriages, women in combat, government-funded abortions and loss of alimony.

In 1972 she started the Eagle Forum, now located in Clayton, Missouri, along with Stop ERA, bringing in legions of supporters who had been regarded as non-political housewives. In a 1978 appearance at the Illinois capitol she was accompanied by backers bearing loaves of home-made bread.

Described by Time magazine as “feminine but forceful” and with her hair always carefully styled, Schlafly said she attended 41 state hearings to testify against the Equal Rights Amendment. When the ERA’s ratification deadline expired in 1982, having been approved by only 35 of the 38 states needed, Schlafly threw a party in Washington.

Phyllis Stewart was born Aug. 15, 1924, in St. Louis and grew up in a home she described as Republican but not activist. She put herself through Washington University by firing weapons as an ammunition factory tester and later earned a master’s degree in political science from Radcliffe. In 1978 she graduated from Washington University’s law school.

The left attacked Schlafly for promoting domestic life to her supporters while spending so much time pursuing her ambitious political agenda. She responded by saying she never told women they should not work.

“I simply didn’t believe we needed a constitutional amendment to protect women’s rights,” Schlafly told the New York Times.

Schlafly first became a political presence with her 1964 self-published book “A Choice, Not an Echo,” which championed the conservative politics of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.

Schlafly also built a reputation as a strident anti-Communist and opponent of arms control treaties. After the ERA’s defeat, she continued to preach conservative causes such as limited government, anti-abortion laws, traditional education, strong defense and keeping out illegal immigrants.

She frequently criticized immigration reform and the Obama administration and wrote more than 25 books.

Schlafly also was a critic of gay rights, which proved to be a sensitive topic in 1992 when the oldest of her six children, John, who worked for the Eagle Forum, acknowledged he was homosexual.

Schlafly’s husband Fred died in 1993. She is survived by six children, 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, Eagle Forum said.

(Writing and reporting by Bill Trott; Additional reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Diane Craft)

Photo: Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly introduces U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis, Missouri, March 11, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein – RTSAF6Q

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.