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Phyllis Schlafly, U.S. Conservative Activist, Dies At 92

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

Muhammad Ali: ‘Greatest’ Boxer, Showman, Ambassador

(Reuters) – More than 60 years ago, a bicycle thief in Louisville, Kentucky, unknowingly set in motion one of the most amazing sports careers in history.

An angry 12-year-old Cassius Clay went to a policeman on that day in 1954, vowing he would find the thief who took his bike and have his revenge. The policeman’s advice was to learn to box first so Clay, who would later change his name to Muhammad Ali, went to a gym, where he learned quite well.

He would go on to be a record-setting heavyweight champion and also much more. Ali was handsome, bold and outspoken and became a symbol for black liberation as he stood up to the U.S. government by refusing to go into the Army for religious reasons.

As one of the best-known figures of the 20th century, Ali did not believe in modesty and proclaimed himself not only “the greatest” but “the double greatest.”

He died on Friday at the age of 74 after suffering for more than three decades with Parkinson’s syndrome, which stole his physical grace and killed his loquaciousness.

Americans had never seen an athlete – or perhaps any public figure – like Ali. He was heavyweight champ a record three times between 1964 and 1978, taking part in some of the sport’s most epic bouts. He was cocky and rebellious and psyched himself up by taunting opponents and reciting original poems that predicted the round in which he would knock them out in. The audacity caused many to despise Ali but endeared him to millions.

“He talked, he was handsome, he did wonderful things,” said George Foreman, a prominent Ali rival. “If you were 16 years old and wanted to copy somebody, it had to be Ali.”

Ali’s emergence coincided with the American civil rights movement and his persona offered young blacks something they did not get from Martin Luther King and other leaders of the era.

“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize,” Ali said. “But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”

Ali also had his share of fights outside the ring – against public opinion when he became a Muslim in 1964, against the U.S. government when he refused to be inducted into the Army during the Vietnam War and finally against Parkinson’s.

The one-time Christian Baptist became the most famous convert to Islam in American history when he announced he had joined the Black Muslim movement under the guidance of Malcolm X shortly after he first became champion. He eventually rejected his “white” name and became Muhammad Ali but split from Malcolm X during a power struggle within the movement.

The U.S. Army twice rejected Ali for service after measuring his IQ at 78 but eventually declared him fit for service. When he was drafted on April 28, 1967, he refused induction and the next day was stripped of his title by the World Boxing Association. In June of that year he was found guilty of draft evasion and sentenced to five years in jail.

“Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger,” Ali said in a famous off-the-cuff statement.

He never went to jail while his case was on appeal and in 1971 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction. Still, Ali’s career had been at a standstill for almost 3-1/2 years because boxing officials would not give him licenses to fight.



He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on Jan. 17, 1942, as Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., a name shared with a 19th century slavery abolitionist. His early boxing lessons led to several Golden Gloves titles in his youth and his career took off when he won a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

His first professional fight was a six-round decision victory on Oct. 29, 1960, against Tunney Hunsaker, whose day job was police chief in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Despite an undefeated record, Ali was a decisive underdog 3- 1/2 years later in Miami when he faced Sonny Liston, the glowering ex-convict who was then the heavyweight champion.

Ali’s credo in the ring was “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” and his dazzling hand and foot speed confounded Liston, as it would many bigger, more powerful opponents to come. Ali became world champion when Liston did not answer the bell for the seventh round.



Joe Frazier became the heavyweight champion while Ali was dormant appealing against his draft conviction and, after Ali’s 1970 return to the ring, the two took part in three classic fights.

The first, billed as the “Fight of the Century” in New York in 1971, was a tremendous battle that showed Ali still possessed his skills. Frazier dropped him with a left hook in the last round and, even though Ali rose quickly, Frazier won the fight on a decision. It was Ali’s first defeat after 31 victories.

Frazier lost the title to Foreman in January 1973 but the second Ali-Frazier bout still drew enormous attention in 1974 with a 32-year-old Ali winning a unanimous decision.

Then came the “Rumble in the Jungle” match against Foreman for the heavyweight crown in Kinshasa, Zaire, on Oct. 30, 1974. Ali had a surprise ploy – a passive “rope-a-dope” strategy in which he laid back against the ropes, essentially hiding behind his arms and inviting the larger, stronger Foreman to hit him until he was too tired to hit anymore.

It paid off in the eighth round, when Ali knocked out the weary Foreman with a left-right combination.

It was one of the brightest moments of Ali’s career, confirming him as one of the greatest fighters of all time.

Ali defended his title three times in 1975 before meeting Frazier once more in October in the “Thrilla in Manila.” The bout was fought in brutal heat and Ali won when Frazier’s trainer would not allow him to go out for the final round.

On Feb. 15, 1978, a careless, lethargic Ali lost his title to little-known Leon Spinks in a 15-round decision. Seven months later, he reclaimed the title with a 15-round decision over Spinks. The victory, when Ali was four months shy of 37, came 14 years after he had won his first championship.

However, Ali, whose entourage helped him to spend several fortunes, needed money and refused to leave the sport even when it was apparent that age had sapped his talents.

He retired about a year after beating Spinks but came back in 1980 to fight former sparring mate Larry Holmes, losing a lopsided bout that was stopped after 10 rounds.

A year later, he ignored pleas to retire and lost to journeyman Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas. Then he retired for good with a record of 56 wins, including 37 knockouts, and five losses.



Ali did not have to be in a boxing ring to command the world stage. In 1990, a few months after Iraq invaded Kuwait, Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein held dozens of foreigners hostages in hopes of averting an invasion of his country. Ali flew to Baghdad, met Saddam and left with 14 American hostages.

A nation that once questioned his patriotism cheered loudly in 1996 when he made a surprise appearance at the Atlanta Games, stilling the Parkinson’s tremors in his hands enough to light the Olympic flame. He also took part in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012, looking frail in a wheelchair.

In November 2002 he went to Afghanistan on a goodwill visit after being appointed a U.N. “messenger of peace.”

Ali was married four times, most recently to the former Lonnie Williams, who knew him when she was a child in Louisville. He had nine children, including daughter Laila, who became a boxer.

The diagnosis of Parkinson’s syndrome, which has been linked to head trauma, came about three years after Ali retired from boxing in 1981. He helped establish the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at a hospital in Phoenix.


(Writing and reporting by Bill Trott; Editing by Frances Kerry and Paul Tait)