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‘Mrs. America’ Creator Dahvi Waller Takes On Phyllis Schlafly And The Equal Rights Amendment

Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly
FX Networks
Cate Blanchett portrays the late Phyllis Schlafly in the soon-to-premiere "Mrs. America."

In her soon-to-premiere FX limited series “Mrs. America,” creator and showrunner Dahvi Waller introduces viewers to the late St. Louis native Phyllis Schlafly in unprecedented, full-color fashion.

Schlafly is portrayed by a brilliant Cate Blanchett, whose acting brings to life not only Schlafly’s yearslong fight against the Equal Rights Amendment and its feminist advocates but also other aspects of the conservative leader’s life.

Along the way, Waller’s all-star cast also takes viewers into the minds and lives of a host of lionized female figures of 1970s America, including Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale) and Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba).

In a conversation that aired during Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Waller joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss Schlafly, who died in 2016, and the decades of political history she and her political adversaries helped shape — and how Waller went about bringing this story to the screen.

Dahvi Waller is the creator of "Mrs. America."
Credit Dahvi Waller
Dahvi Waller is the creator of "Mrs. America."

The series premieres April 15 on FX on Hulu.

“When I started to research into her and learned that her passion and her career for 20 years prior to 1972 was in military strategy, defense strategy,” Waller said about what drew her to Schlafly’s story, “and that her real passion was defense, I thought, ‘Well now there’s an interesting mystery.’”

Waller noted that Schlafly ran for Congress twice, in 1952 and 1970, and lost both times. The showrunner’s sense is that she “wasn’t getting any traction in terms of defense strategy” and decided to move into a different avenue of activism.

“She just couldn’t get into this — what was very much a boys club. But when she started talking and speaking out against the ERA, she started getting a lot of traction. People became interested in listening to her, and it was a much more fruitful platform. … I also think that her message, and what she was saying about the Equal Rights Amendment, resonated with a lot of homemakers at that time, who were quite fearful about the sudden changes in society and the ways in which their role had shifted from 10 years prior.”

Listen to the full discussion:

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Evie was a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.