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Thorner: Schlafly family opens doors to conservative icon’s childhood and private residence



Schlafly residence in Ladue, Missouri

By Nancy Thorner - 

Admirers of the conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly were given a rare glimpse into her childhood through the eyes of a family member and into her private adult life spent in her Ladue, Missouri home during the recent Eagle Forum conference held in St. Louis.  

Her cousin eight years younger shared insight into her early years while two of her six children opened her home to visitors.


Phyllis Schlafly was born in St. Louis on August 15, 1924. Ned Pfeifer, Phyllis’s cousin, was born in 1932 and was the son of Phyllis’s mother’s sister. 

Ned said that he and Phyllis grew up together and went to the Academy of Sacred Heart together, although Phyllis was in high school when Ned was yet in grade school. Neither Phyllis nor her sister, Odile, (six years younger than Phyllis) were athletically inclined, but Phyllis excelled in scholarship and ranked first in her high school graduating class. 

Early on Phyllis displayed an interest in politics, Ned said. He related how both families were very close and would often get together on Sundays. Usually, the topic of discussion would turn to the WWII, but it was Phyllis, rather than the grownups present, who did most of the talking.  Ned said he would just listen. 

Phyllis's father (John Bruce Stewart) was an engineer at Westinghouse and was laid off during the 1938 Depression.  However, in 1944 he was awarded a patent for a rotary engine with three moving parts.  Because of her dad's patented invention, Phyllis maintained a great interest in patent rights throughout her life, and it remains an issue of importance today. Phyllis’ mother, Odile Dodge Stewart, worked as a librarian to support the family Phyllis' father was unemployed.

Although Phyllis won a scholarship to attend another college, she opted instead to attend Washington University in St. Louis. She test-fired hand guns on the night shift at a St. Louis ordinance plant to work her way through college. She earned a B.A. with honors from Washington University in St. Louis in l944, and then went on to gain a Master's in Government from Harvard University in 1945. 

Phyllis married John Fred Schlafly, an attorney, in 1949, and together they had six children:  John, Bruce, Roger, Liza, Andrew, and Anne.  For their marriage, Fred gave Phyllis a state-of-the art model 1949 Ford car, which Ned later bought from Phyllis.  Phyllis loved to hold dinner parties. At her parties everyone had to stand and talk about a topic Phyllis deemed important. Ned remembers one topic as being Nixon's Visit to China. It is not surprising that Phyllis ran for office the first time three years after her marriage in 1952.

In 1972, Phyllis founded Eagle Forum – a family-oriented, conservative organization with thousands of members throughout the United States – which became a base for communicating her messages. Years later, when actively fighting the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment), Phyllis enrolled in Washington University Law School when she realized the need to debate with a legal perspective. Initially, Phyllis' husband thought one lawyer in the family was enough, but then he relented and supported her efforts to obtain a JD degree in 1978. She finished seventh in her class.  

Although Ned said that Phyllis wanted him to be involved in politics early on, he never had the time to do so until after he retired. In 2009, Phyllis asked Ned to head Eagle Forum in Pennsylvania with the responsibility to organize members there to make a difference in the state.

Fred and Phyllis spent most of their married life in Alton, Illinois until Fred's death in 1993. It was then that Phyllis moved to her home in Ladue, Missouri, where she died on Labor Day, September 5, 2016. 

Schlafly's sons open doors to their mother's private residence

While attending Eagle Council 46, John and Andy Schlafly invited attendees to their late mother's house in Ladue, MO.

Son John said as a child his mother was shy and not a natural speaker. Nevertheless, by age 22 Phyllis was writing speeches for Congressional candidates and by age 29 she herself was a candidate.

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When asked how his mother developed leadership skills and learn how to speak, son John said his mother studied the life of George Washington to learn about leadership, believing no one could compare to Washington, who she admired as a pre-eminent leader. 

From George Washington, Phyllis also learned that character had to remain constant whether in public or private life, thus Phyllis' character in her public and personal life didn't change.  Phyllis likewise believed in the importance of having good humor at all times. She thought Washington was the only person who deserved to have a holiday named after him.

In learning to speak publicly, Phyllis modeled her speech after Everett Dirksen, always watching what she said and being careful with the words she used.  This was how Phyllis was able to give interviews without the questioner tricking her into saying something that might reflect negatively on her in some way.

Phyllis loved antique furniture and designed her home accordingly. Her home spoke of peace and serenity, even down to the wallpaper used. Phyllis documented every object in her house and where it came from. Her son Andy remarked with candor how the current younger generation is not all that interested in crystal, silverware and fine china, making these items not as valuable as they once were. 

When Phyllis was married in 1949, she brought with her the same canopy bed she and her sister Odille had slept in as children, which then became her marriage bed. 


Hanging on an upstairs wall were two samplers Phyllis had done as a child as Phyllis Stewart, one dated August, 1932, and the other October 1933. 


Phyllis had the ability to work with all sorts of distractions around her, including their six children, all of which Phyllis taught to read at home using books she developed to teach phonics and reading. Phyllis’ home office was conducive to her writing, surrounded by many objects which gave her comfort and allowed her mind to operate with freedom. And Phyllis did find writing hard work, her sons said.  (Below: Author Nancy Thorner at Schlafly's home office desk)


Phyllis is the author or editor of 27 books on subjects as varied as family and feminism, the judiciary, religion, nuclear strategy, education, child care, and phonics. All of her writing was original; she was never accused of plagiarism.  

Over the span of 70 years, Phyllis addressed many issues and also acted on what she believed.  One issue Phyllis didn't become involved in was the Iraqi War, thinking it was not in the best interest of our nation. After the war began, however, it wasn't possible for Phyllis to question the war as we had men fighting in the conflict. 

Phyllis is known for her fight against the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) and even defined the terms of the debate by determining the weak points of the issue.

Because of Phyllis' endorsement of Donald Trump early on in 2016 above all the other Republicans candidates, Phyllis suffered considerable grief, even though her endorsement was personal and not made in the name of Eagle Forum.

Son John said Phyllis believed Trump had thought deeply about many issues she also cared about, and about which this nation was facing, many years before Trump declared his candidacy in 2016. Moreover, Trump’s beliefs had changed very little over many years.  Phyllis had even hoped Trump would run in 2012. Phyllis saw leadership qualities in Trump not unlike those she perceived in George Washington, recognizing that such leadership qualities are difficult to develop, if they are not already an integral part of an individual's character. 

Phyllis' book, The Conservative Case for Trump, co-authored by Ed Martin, president of Eagle Forum since January 2015, and Brett M. Decker, who has been an editor for the Wall Street Journal and editorial page editor at the Washington Times, made the New York Time's Best Seller List.  It was released for publication the day after Phyllis died on September 9, 2016.

Son Andy Schlafly is presently working on three projects to preserve his mother's legacy: 

Preserve Phyllis’s home and get it recognized as a landmark.

Have Phyllis’s image on a postage stamp.

Obtain Guiness' Book of World Records recognize her for:

  • Attending 17 Republican conventions
  • Speaking at more than 500 college events
  • Writing four times as much as Shakespeare

Wrapping up Eagle Council 46

Ed Martin, who Phyllis chose to be president of Phyllis Schlafly Eagles, said, "A leader is an ordinary person who accepts the challenge, it's not the matter of talent, but it's an achievement through effort and dedication to a cause."

"Phyllis was humble. She thought of herself as an ordinary person who wanted to be a good speakers and writer when young, and then she worked hard at accomplishing both to become best she could be," he said. "She decided to make a difference in covering issues that she knew people were facing.

"As Phyllis did, a good leader accepts responsibility after learning about in issue and then does not falter.  You can't rise up unless you look up and then you must step into the fight by entering the game of politics where you can make a difference."

On this concluding note, Eagle Council 46 attendees were sent home to their respective states, where they were encouraged to become involved by using whatever means available to them to help Make America Great Again through their support of President Trump.


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