Women in conservatism in the United States

Women in conservatism in the United States have advocated on behalf of conservative social, economic, and political goals since the birth of the conservative movement.[1][2][3][4][5]


Phyllis Schlafly
Sarah Palin

Divisions over equal rights laws

Socially conservative women in the United States held generally feminist leanings in the United States in the years after suffrage. The members of the National Woman's Party who drafted the Equal Rights Amendment were mostly upper-middle class conservatives. In 1940 the Republicans became the first major political party to support the amendment. Women in the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower were advocates of the ERA. In the late 1960s the women's movement rose up as a cross-political alliance between American women. Conservative as well as liberal women helped pass equal rights legislation like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, and Title IX of the 1972 education amendments.

Some socially conservative women however, primarily Christian fundamentalist homemakers, were opposed to the women's movement and were mobilized in the 1970s by activist Phyllis Schlafly in an effort to stop ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. At first a noncontroversial effort to provide legal equality, the ERA easily passed Congress in 1972 and quickly was ratified by 22 of the necessary 38 states by the end of that year. Schlafly denounced it as tilting the playing field against the traditional housewife and mobilized opponents. Schlafly claimed it would mean women would be drafted into the Army on the same basis as men. Through her organization STOP ERA she organized state by state to block further ratification and soon ERA opponents convinced some states to consider rescinding earlier ratifications. Congress extended the time needed for adoption, and supporters boycotted tourist cities in states that had not ratified (such as Chicago and New Orleans). The amendment received the approval of only 35 of the necessary 38 states by 1982. Schlafly continued as an anti-feminist spokesman in the conservative movement, but her views fell increasingly out of favor with the right as a new generation of conservative women, like the first Republican woman nominee for Vice President began to identify as feminists and supported Equal Rights.[6] Even though some conservatives managed to qualify the Republican Party's forty-year support of ERA in 1980, they were never successful in getting the party to turn against it. Regardless, they likely deserve some credit in Ronald Reagan's switch against the amendment (he had earlier been a supporter of the amendment and had offered feminists help in ratifying it).

During and after ERA's defeat few visible conservative Republican women were anti-feminists or ERA opponents, including most Republican women in Congress. The failure of the ERA is often seen as a fluke as large majorities of the American public, including majorities of Republicans, supported the amendment overwhelmingly in most opinion polls.

In politics today

In 2010 Sarah Palin, whose nomination to run for Vice President was a visible ascent of a conservative woman in 2008, declared a new feminism of conservative women and supported many women for Congress whom she labeled "Mama Grizzlies". While giving a speech announcing this new feminism to the Susan B. Anthony List Palin spoke favorably about early feminists like Alice Paul and the Equal Rights Amendment. Palin and modern conservative women usually invoke the moderate center of the women's movement which holds consensus as a positive national event, rather than invoke the controversial Schlafly.

Notable figures


See also


  1. "Conservative Women - The 2012 Game-Changers". Fox News. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
  2. Nina Burleigh (2011-08-12). "Conservatism and Women - Pioneers of Female Conservatism". ELLE. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
  3. "The War on Conservative Women | FrontPage Magazine". Frontpagemag.com. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
  4. "Righting Feminism: Conservative Women and American Politics (9780195331813): Ronnee Schreiber: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
  5. "Great American Conservative Women (9780972139908): Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
  6. Donald T. Critchlow, Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade (2005)
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