Phyllis Schlafly, queen of the conservative movement, reigned over her 80th birthday celebration Saturday with 450 friends, family and colleagues lavishing praise and thanks.
The high profiles of her well-wishers -- Jack Kemp, Bob Novak, John Fund, Brent Bozell and Grover Norquist , among them -- said as much about her drawing power as a conservative activist Republican as their tributes to a woman whose vast influence and deep understanding of political issues allowed her to take on any foe.
"She is a Renaissance woman," Mr. Kemp said, with "the same influence as Bill Buckley, a source of principled conservatism that gives intellectual weight to the whole movement."
"An inspiration" and "the original superwoman" added Mr. Fund, who noted that her "greatest accomplishment was convincing women that 'just because you're in the kitchen doesn't mean you can't change the world with a phone and a fax and the Internet.' "
Mrs. Schlafly seemed little changed from her 1960s self in a poppy-red gown and double strand of pearls as she held court during a pre-dinner VIP reception at Arlington's Marriott Crystal Gateway Hotel. A line of fans waited patiently to have their pictures taken with the woman who first gained national attention with "A Choice Not an Echo," her best-selling -- and self-published -- book about 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, and then became even more famous for engineering the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment and championing the Eagle Forum, the grass-roots organization that has elected countless conservative Republicans around the country.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, the singing of "The Star- Spangled Banner" and a steak-and mashed-potatoes dinner, the tributes began with Mr. Kemp's teasing greeting to "fellow members of the 'vast right wing conspiracy.' " Those who followed struck more serious notes, with many praising Mrs. Schlafly for her willingness to take on powerful opponents in crusades against everything from sex education, abortion and judges who perform "marriages" for same-sex couples to D.C. statehood, multiculturalism and the European Union.
Elaine Donnelly, head of the Center for Military Readiness, which opposes "the feminization of the American military," noted proudly that the guest of honor had "taken on an astonishing array of adversaries" including communists, the child-care industry, the United Nations, "Boy Scout bashers," "environmental extremists," "secularists who don't like Christmas," "abortionists who have ice in their veins" and "our favorite foe, the feminists." (Feminist Betty Friedan once announced she would like to burn Mrs. Schlafly at the stake.)
But the overwhelming message of the evening was a positive one: Phyllis Schlafly has changed the world, and for the better.
Later, the matriarch of the family-values movement revealed she had never lost sight of her most important mission.
Asked to name the greatest accomplishment of her life, she didn't hesitate a moment before replying, "My six wonderful children."