The GOP’s 100-Year Long War Against Women’s Rights





It’s an unfortunate reality, but voters have short memories, so it is not surprising that people forget how the Republicans have worked against women’s rights since the 1970s.

           Women fight for the vote

In their book, The Long Southern Strategy, authors Angie Maxwell and Todd Shields explain how the Republicans developed a political strategy focused on gender, race, and religion to shape a form of conservatism that protects the traditional lifestyles of specific Americans.

One key element of this Southern political strategy targeted the assault on women’s rights and the anti-feminist movement.

In an interview in The Raw Story, co-author Angie Maxwell said the Republican attacks on the feminist movement are designed to create resentment against women who want to enter the workplace and assume jobs traditionally done by men. This strategy worked to generate resentment against women who took these jobs. This was the exact opposite of what the feminist movement was doing in the workplace and society.

This form of modern sexism worked against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, as some women thought she was unfit to be president simply because of her sex.

Republicans have been working towards their anti-feminist position since 1980 when Ronald Reagan dropped the Equal Rights Amendment proposal from the Republican Party campaign platform. The authors point out that this was crucial in winning back Southern voters in 1990, and it took hold in Republican circles.

Previously, some Republican women were active in the 1977 National Women’s Convention, which attracted the former and current first ladies of every living president from both parties.  But, looking back, that was an anomaly.

Republican attacks on the feminist movement are designed to create resentment against women who want to enter the workplace and assume jobs traditionally done by men.

To counter the Women’s National Convention, a right-wing activist, Phyllis Schlafly, held a counter-convention in Houston under the banner of “family values” to distract and dilute the more popular national pro-feminist movement. The “family values” movement later adopted anti-gay and anti-abortion positions that became core Republican Party values. She then worked tirelessly to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment and clashed with the National Organization of Women.

Among Schlafly’s quotes are: “Feminism is doomed to failure because it is based on an attempt to repeal and restructure human nature.” And “Sex education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions.”

The Republican Jump from Anti-Feminism to Anti-Abortion

At about the same time, Congress was considering proposals to tax large mega-churches because they ran segregated schools. Supreme Court cases (especially Green v. Connally) found that “any organization that engages in racial discrimination or segregation is not, by definition, a charitable institution. Therefore, it has no claims on tax-exempt status,” according to an interview on NPR.

“Many white evangelical leaders relied on those tax exemptions to operate their private, segregated schools in places like Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, and Virginia. And they felt entitled to those tax exemptions on religious grounds,” according to Ramtin Arablouei.

Evangelical Jerry Falwell, who ran a large school in Lynchburg, Tennessee, and went on to form the Moral Majority in 1979, knew the evangelicals could not take a national position against integration, so with the help of a Republican strategist, they adopted an anti-abortion position as a unifying theme.

They then worked with Ronald Reagan to get him elected and successfully raised the anti-abortion issue as a distraction from the tax issue. This pushed conservative southern voters into the Republican camp, a tug-of-war that continues today.

More recently, the conservative US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in alignment with the Republican’s traditional anti-feminist positions. The Supreme Court may also play an outsized role in communicating with anti-abortion religious groups.

In a recent news report, Rev. Rob Schenck said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. leaked the outcome of the 2014 abortion-related case weeks before it was publicly announced. Rev. Schenk “used that information to prepare a public relations push, records show, and he said that at the last minute, he tipped off the president of Hobby Lobby, the craft store chain owned by Christian evangelicals that were the winning party in the case,” according to the New York Times.

This is the second time the Supreme Court was the subject of leaking a case involving abortion. In the spring of 2022, a draft opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade was made public before it was formally announced.

The Long Road to Women’s Rights

Women today accept equal rights as an established practice, but it took 70 years and the creation of the most significant reform movement in U.S. history to make it happen.  As described in a recent Library of Congress exhibition (“Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote”), the Nineteen Amendment to the Constitution happened over 100 years ago, but “the fight for women’s suffrage was not for the fainthearted.”

Suffragette’s death in England to protest anti-women vote in 1913

“Determined women organized, lobbied, paraded, petitioned, lectured, and picketed for years. Suffragists were ridiculed, patronized, and dismissed by opponents, yet they persisted,” a Library guide states. “Some were assaulted and endured the harsh confines of prison for daring to claim rights equal to men, but they would not be denied.”

The social changes and tactics the suffrage movement created were then adopted by the Civil Rights, anti-Viet Nam, gay rights, and other major social movements of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Today, the Republicans are continuing to hold back or repeal social and economic progress at the federal, state, and local levels. It looks like there is no guarantee of American progress. The Republicans show that powerful forces are still working to roll back the civil rights of American citizens in a bold effort to maintain political power.

Previous articleMLK’s Progressive Proposal, Reparations and the Wealth Gap
Next articleAre the Dems Afraid of Winning?
Chuck Epstein has managed marketing communications and public relations departments for major global financial institutions and participated in the launch of industry-changing financial products. He also has written by-lined articles for over 50 publications, five books and served as editor and publisher of nation’s first newsletter on the topic of using the PC for personal investing and trading. (“Investing Online, 1994-1999). He also is a marketing consultant, writer and speaker on topics related to investor protection and opportunities in the very dynamic cannabis industry. He has held senior-level marketing, PR and communications positions at the New York Futures Exchange, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Lind-Waldock, Zacks Investment Research, Russell Investments and Principal Financial. He has won national awards from the Mutual Fund Education Alliance (MFEA) and his web site,, was named best small blog in 2009 by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW).



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here