The year is 1972. Pat Schroeder is a dark horse candidate who is as surprised as
anyone else at her victory when she is wins a seat in the House of Representatives,
the first woman elected from Colorado. As a political neophyte, she stumbles around
Congress trying to learn the ropes. She is determined to represent women and families
in this era of change, symbolized by the strong national support for the Equal Rights
Amendment. By the time she completes her first year in Washington DC, 30 states have
ratified the amendment with only 8 to go.
She is shocked when the ERA is challenged by Phyllis Schlafly, a brilliant political
strategist and strongly religious conservative who declares the amendment to be a
threat to women everywhere. Phyllis brands the Equal Rights Amendment and the feminist
movement as the ruination of American family values and a threat to American strength
internationally. She organizes the Stop ERA movement. The ratification process drifts
to a standstill.
Ultimately, Pat and Phyllis debate, and ultimately the STOP ERA movement turns the
ratification process from a sure thing to a political disaster.
The story ends with Phyllis and her merry band celebrating the final demise of the
ERA in 1982.
Pat Schroeder is an idealistic crusader who mocks her colleagues when they don't
agree with her, which is often, since she introduces legislation that challenges
conventional thinking. She enjoys jousting with pompous men and irrational, sexist
thinking. Unlike the small group of women Representatives who have learned to go
along to get along, Pat attacks. She has no patience for currying favor with powerful
men while waiting for them to grant her a power position. The members of the media
rapidly pick up on her witty comments and controversial challenges to the DC power
game, and Pat enjoys basking in the resulting limelight of media attention.
Phyllis Schlafly is a self-righteous crusader who enjoys battle as a small town "David"
against a godless, feminist "goliath" to maintain traditional values and practices
in America. Her highly educated, formerly wealthy family lost everything in the Great
Depression but their upper-crust, Catholic faith. Phyllis has never forgotten her
conservative training and white-glove, ladylike behaviors.
American society is evolving in a way that accepts liberal viewpoints about people's
choices because there are just too many people from too many social strata and backgrounds
to insist that everyone conform to the narrow beliefs of one particular group.
In short, you can't force women to live by past traditions, though they may freely
accept/choose whatever lives they prefer. So ultimately, the liberal viewpoint wins
the war, though several battles are lost along the way.