I wasn’t really a feminist -- after all, I was happily married, had three kids and wouldn’t use the title Ms. Still, I believed in equal pay for women, so it was with real shock to me that I read a little newsletter (don’t even remember how I happened to get it!) called “What’s Wrong with Equal Rights for Women?” by Phyllis Schlafly. In it, I learned that equal pay was all ready legislated and that there even were some not-so-good consequences to the proposed Constitutional Amendment – the so-called Equal Rights Amendment. - Its message resonated with me and soon I was a convert to the STOP ERA movement By watching Phyllis on TV whenever I could, and reading her Reports, I got plenty of well-documented information and I soon began speaking to individuals and then groups, even doing debates with the message of the three “un’s” – the ERA was Un-necessary, Un-certain and Un-desirable. Once I even testified to a legislative committee along with the legendary Henry Hyde. It was during those days that I realized my normal inability to remember dates and names was miraculously transformed as the good Lord knew that when I spoke, I’d have to be able to quote those court decisions and legal authorities!
Soon after, my husband’s job transferred us from Minnesota to Texas, and finding that the Lone Star state had all ready ratified the ERA, I became involved in trying to get its ratification rescinded. Becoming a delegate from my local PTA to the state convention, I spoke against their resolution to support the ERA, and amazingly, my viewpoint prevailed against the recommendation of the state board! I was ecstatic and when I arrived home, I called the national Eagle Forum office and was thrilled to actually speak with THE Phyllis Schlafly! I relayed my happy news and she invited me to her second Eagle Council, which I was able to attend the following fall. From Phyllis, I learned how to turn a hostile question into one you want to answer, how to get your message across in a radio or TV interview in sound bite sections, and most of all, that I could always rely on the information in her Reports to be accurate, documented and quotable.
Eventually, my STOP ERA role was moved to Oklahoma as we again were transferred, and there, I made a little cassette tape (really dating myself with that term!) exposing another travesty to which Phyllis had alerted her Eagles: the International Women’s Year. The cassette was copied and sent all over the country and helped bring thousands of women to Houston for our counter-rally to the IWY.
Phyllis was always a political role model and mentor to me, and so several years ago, I was thrilled to be asked to serve as the Executive Director of the Republican National Coalition for Life, her pro-life organization. Though I retired from that role in 2013, I had the huge privilege of working with Phyllis at the 2012 Republican National Convention to put on a wildly successful event honoring pro-life heroes Sen. Rick Santorum, Governor Rick Perry and Congressman Louie Gohmert.
To sum up what I have learned in my decades of working with Phyllis, it would be speaking skills, self-confidence in researching issues and the importance of always being accurate with facts. One of the greatest compliments I ever received was when Phyllis heard me speak at an event and commented that, “You are still a good speaker, Dianne.” Coming from THE Phyllis Schlafly, that was high praise indeed and I shall always cherish that memory.
by Dianne Edmondson