Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Another civil rights activist passes and it makes me wonder is the war on women working? Where are the good people to fight these fights and are you one?
Adelaide Schlafly, who spent a lifetime advocating on behalf of people whose voices are diminished by poverty, social injustice, racial discrimination, and educational deficiencies, died Sunday (September 30, 2012) at her home in the Central West End. She was 97.
“Our city has lost a wonderful champion for justice,” said Thomas M. Nolan, executive director of Access Academies, a middle school program for disadvantaged children in faith-based schools.
“She was simply a woman of great talent and great energy who sought the common good in so many ways.”
A memorial Mass for Mrs. Schlafly will be celebrated on Thursday at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.
From Rome, Cardinal Justin Rigali expressed his disappointment that he would be unable to attend her services, noting, “I recall Adelaide Schlafly with great esteem and admiration for her outstanding service as an active Catholic.”
Mrs. Schlafly inherited a life of privilege; she chose a life of service.
The 2004 commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that ended segregated schools caused Mrs. Schlafly to reflect. She said that Brown v. Board of Education “may seem like ancient history to many people, (but) this is a story that must not be forgotten.”
She was ever vigilant.
Mrs. Schlafly was on the front lines in the successful fight that gave all Missouri citizens the right to use public facilities, a law that predated the 1964 Civil Rights Act. She was a leader in the Missouri Association for Social Welfare and she helped found the Missouri Commission on Human Rights.
“I was familiar with her work in education and the quest for human rights,” said Nolan, who previously worked in the Human Rights Office of the St. Louis Archdiocese. “She focused on issues of poverty and racism.”
Mrs. Schlafly was bold in calling attention to injustice.
In a 1989 letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, she wrote: “The first five candidates on the ballot for six-year terms are all well-qualified and concerned, above all, with education …. An opposition slate for the five seats represents racism that could tear our community apart, hurt the schoolchildren and damage prospects for the economic growth of the metropolitan area.”
During a 1961 visit with her son, Daniel Jr., who was a student at his father’s alma mater, Georgetown University, she noticed that one portrait was missing from the gallery of former university presidents.
Father Patrick Healy, the son of a former slave and a wealthy Irishman, was conspicuously absent.
At least it was conspicuous to Mrs. Schlafly, a history major who graduated magna cum laude from Saint Louis University in 1956.
She insisted that the portrait of the nation’s first and only African-American president of a major college or university be given its rightful place of honor.- And so it was.
All of Mrs. Schlafly’s efforts were inextricably linked to those of her husband, Daniel, who, despite never having set foot in a public school as a student, served on the St. Louis School Board for nearly three decades.
When he died in 1997, Mrs. Schlafly continued their work unabated.
She wrote in the Post-Dispatch in 1998: “The school children of St. Louis were then, and are now, our children. Their welfare in school and in the world outside has been a special concern of ours that continues for me today.”
Her commitment to children had begun early. As a volunteer in a Catholic preschool prior to World War II, Mrs. Schlafly saw the effects of poverty and discrimination on African-American children. Then and there she committed to making things better for disadvantaged children.
“She was interested and engaged throughout her long life,” said Waller McGuire, executive director of the St. Louis Public Library.
Until recently, she was a frequent visitor to the library just blocks from her home that, at the recommendation of Missouri Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Richard B. Teitelman, bears the Schlafly name.
“She was particularly interested in how school children were using the library,” McGuire said.
Mrs. Schlafly donated a large collection of children’s books, including some rare and quite valuable volumes from her youth, to the Schlafly Library.
Many of Mrs. Schlafly’s numerous civic and cultural affiliations reflected her commitment to human rights, education and diversity: the White House Council on Education, the St. Louis Internship Program, Harris-Stowe State University, the Urban League, the NAACP, St. Louis Catholic and Public Schools, the Catholic Interracial Council and the Archdiocesan Human Rights Commission.
She also supported the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Zoo and the National Council of Catholic Women.
She served on the board of the One William Street Fund and buoyed many institutions, including the Cathedral Basilica, Desloge Hospital, Saint Louis University, St. Louis University High School, the St. Louis Priory, and the St. Louis Symphony.
Described as “exceptionally modest and self-effacing,” Mrs. Schlafly was nevertheless much lauded.
Her awards included A Dame of Malta. She was a Globe-Democrat Woman of Achievement in 1966, and was honored by the Associated Alumni of the Sacred Heart, the Missouri History Museum, the Urban League, Maryville University, and Oasis. In 1989, she received an honorary degree from Saint Louis University and the archdiocesan Order of Christ the King in 1997.
She established the Adelaide M. Schlafly Preschool Teacher of the Year prize and she and her husband funded a pilot program that developed into the St. Louis Partnership, which brings white and black students together.
Mrs. Schlafly's international education and travels inspired her to work with the St. Louis chapter of the United Nations Association, the American Forum for Global Education and the United Nations University.
Adelaide Mahaffey Schlafly was born July 19, 1915, in St. Louis, the second of four daughters of Birch Oliver Mahaffey and Laura Elizabeth McBride Mahaffey, who died when she was a teenager. She attended the old City House School in St. Louis and boarding schools in South Carolina, New York, Paris and Florence, Italy.
In 1935, the students of Miss May's School in Florence, which included a girl who became Frederica-Queen of Greece, met Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
Dan Schlafly said his mother, an exceptional storyteller, vividly recalled the brief meeting and Mussolini’s billboard PR campaign to convince the world that he invaded Ethiopia to free enslaved people.
She married Daniel Lyons Schlafly, whom she’d known since childhood, on Dec. 2, 1939. They were married by then-Archbishop (later Cardinal) John J. Glennon. They wed despite the practical joke she played on her future husband.
“She forged a letter asking him to lead a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Philippine Duchesne (in St. Charles),” said Dan Schlafly.
He was “earnest and civic minded,” so he agreed, unaware until he arrived at the departure point, that he’d been had.
In memory of her husband, friend and cohort for justice, Mrs. Schlafly donated The Angel of Harmony, a 14-foot high sculpture by Wiktor Szostalo to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. It is an African-American angel surrounded by a Hispanic, Asian and European-featured child playing a song of peace on their instruments.
“Her splendid efforts to assist generously those in need and to apply faithfully the social teaching of the Church remain a great legacy that she leaves to the community of the Church, to her family and to all who knew and loved her,” said Cardinal Rigali, formerly the Archbishop of St. Louis. “I express my prayerful condolences, especially to her family, and ask the Lord Jesus to confirm in Christian hope all who mourn her passing.”
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Schlafly was preceded in death by her sisters Katherine Mahaffey Walsh and Elizabeth Mahaffey Mullins.
Her survivors include her children, Daniel L. (Shannon) Schlafly Jr. of St. Louis, Ellen S. (Robert L.) Shafer of New York City, and Thomas F. (Ulrike) Schlafly of St. Louis; her sister, Dorothy Jane Mahaffey Moore of Weldon Spring; grandchildren Maria Schlafly (David Aholt) and Theresa Schlafly (Matthew Russell), Adelaide (John) Barrett, Katherine (John) Coleman, Daniel (Vanessa) Shafer and Margaret Shafer; and seven great-grandchildren.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, 4431 Lindell at Newstead.
Memorials appreciated to a charity of the donor’s choice.