In Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers produces this interesting bit of dialogue, on the topic of fighting in the rearguard, between Lord Peter Wimsey and the Warden of Sayers's fictional women's college. The setting is the late 1930s. Lord Peter speaks first.
"One may either hulloo on the inevitable, and be called a bloodthirsty progressive; or one may try to gain time and be called a bloodthirsty reactionary. But when blood is their argument, all argument is apt to be--merely bloody."
The Warden passed the adjective at its face value.
"I sometimes wonder whether we gain anything by gaining time."
"Well--if one leaves letters unanswered long enough, some of them answer themselves. Nobody can prevent the Fall of Troy, but a dull, careful person may manage to smuggle out the Lares and Penates--even at the risk of having the epithet pius tacked to his name."
"The Universities are always being urged to march in the van of progress."
"But epic actions are all fought by the rearguard--at Roncevaux and Thermopylae."
"Very well," said the Warden, laughing, "let us die in our tracks, having accomplished nothing but an epic."
Phyllis Schlafly fought not only the infamous Equal Rights Amendment but also all the things that she (rightly) saw would flow from it. In the slightly-longer run of history that we see now from the vantage point of 2016, America lost on point after point in that list. Homosexual rights, homosexual "marriage," women in combat, the repeal of distinctions between the sexes in law, the strikedown of even minimal restrictions on abortion (most recently with the strikedown of Texas's regulations on abortion clinics), and now even the transgender movement. Of all the things that Schlafly foresaw and held back, only the actual registration of women for the draft has not yet taken place, and it can be seen on the horizon, and not so dimly, either. All of these things have been brought upon us by a combination of the courts and of increasingly leftist federal and sometimes state legislatures. But mostly the courts. Not given the excuse of the Equal Rights Amendment, they have over time simply fashioned more and more bizarre interpretations of the 14th amendment. When the Constitution is a wax nose, anything can be done by our robed masters.
So Schlafly's glorious and astonishing defeat of the ERA (see Chapter 10 of George Gilder's Men and Marriage for the story) was, seen in the light of later history, a rearguard action.
But what was the effect of that rearguard action? It gained us decades in which many important things happened. For example, it was during those decades that conservative Christians built up both the private Christian school movement and the home schooling movement (no small thing) and gave both of these firm legal standing in all fifty states. It was during those decades that the pro-life movement grew and developed its careful, logical, natural-law arguments and (more practically) crisis pregnancy centers and sidewalk counseling all over the country. It was during those decades that countless boys and girls were taught by their parents and teachers (even in many public schools) that there are differences between boys and girls, between men and women, to the measureless enrichment of future generations. It was during those decades that the pro-marriage movement, enriched by the cooperation between Catholics and Protestants and the special gifts that each brought, rose up and taught truth ceaselessly, patiently, with the force of truth and reason.
We will never know how many souls were saved from the culture of debauchery and lust by those decades. We will never know how many lives of the unborn were saved by those decades. We will never know how many joyful, fruitful, godly marriages have come about through Schlafly's work. The weight of those lives and souls is very great.
Thus it was that she was able to die in her tracks, having accomplished nothing but an epic.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (I Corinthians 3:10-14)
Requiescat in pace.