President Ronald Reagan is applauded by Beverly LaHaye, president of Concerned Women for America, right, shortly before he addressed the group in Arlington, Va., Sept. 25, 1987. (AP Photo/Scott Stewart) ** FILE **

Pastor’s wife-turned-activist Beverly LaHaye dies at 94, helped defeat Equal Rights Amendment

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Beverly LaHaye, a pastor’s wife who founded Concerned Women for America and led a revolt that defeated the Equal Rights Amendment, died Sunday at an assisted living facility in El Cajon, California. She was 94.

Starting with six women in her living room, Mrs. LaHaye built Concerned Women for America into a national conservative advocacy group that campaigned against abortion and for traditional values. Today, the group boasts 500,000 active members and 285 collegiate chapters as Young Women for America.

She was the widow of Tim LaHaye, a Southern Baptist pastor who led what is now Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon and whose “Left Behind” series of apocalyptic Christian novels sold more than 65 million copies.

Together, the LaHayes wrote “The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love,” first published in 1976. Its publisher, Zondervan, says the book has more than 2.5 million copies in print. In it, the couple argues that a Christian couple should have the most sexually satisfying marriages if they follow biblical principles on sex.

Mrs. LaHaye’s book “The Spirit-Controlled Woman” was seen as a counter to feminist literature of the 1970s and was a perennial bestseller.

Mrs. LaHaye was close to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and frequently testified before Congress, including at confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas and unsuccessful nominee Robert Bork.

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She addressed countless conferences and meetings across the country, and is credited with raising up a cohort of conservative women who became active in politics and civic affairs.

Penny Nance, who succeeded Mrs. LaHaye as CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, said that when Mrs. LaHaye spoke, “she could convince people to charge hell with a water pistol. She was an incredible leader. But she would always tell you it was because of the power of God through the Holy Spirit.”

Mrs. Nance said former Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Christian author Allie Beth Stuckey are among the many conservative women who have said Mrs. LaHaye as a major influence.

Mrs. LaHaye’s “inspiration” for activism came when journalist Barbara Walters interviewed feminist author Betty Friedan on television. As Mrs. LaHaye later recalled, when the activist said every woman in America supported abortion rights, she stood up, pointed at the television and said “You don’t speak for me.”

She spoke out on daily Christian radio broadcasts and became a fixture in conservative circles. She was frequently quoted in, and contributed to, The Washington Times and other conservative news outlets.

In an interview with Jerry Newcombe of Coral Ridge Ministries, Mrs. LaHaye said: “The purpose of Concerned Women for America is really to give the Christian women a voice. A voice in public policy, a voice in really developing values and standards for our families and our children, our homes.’”

Mr. Newcombe said Mrs. LaHaye was “a pioneer, reminding me of the phrase, ‘It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.’”

Mrs. LaHaye “championed the forgotten women of this country, whose voices were not being heard in Washington and in the culture,” Mrs. Nance said. “Her life is a testament to the impact one woman with a vision and mission can have on the course of history.”

Reminiscing about her predecessor, Mrs. Nance said Mrs. LaHaye’s “mind was sharp, but never her elbows. She taught me to disagree [with opponents], but to do so with respect, grace and dignity.”

Janice Shaw Crouse, who worked with Mrs. LaHaye for 15 years and was executive director of the World Congress of Families, said the CWA founder was “a soft-spoken dynamo with influence both here in the states and around the world. She never aspired to be a leader, but God thrust her into the fray to fight for women and families.”

In a statement, Shadow Mountain’s senior pastor David Jeremiah — who succeeded Tim LaHaye in 1981 — lauded Mrs. LaHaye as having “devoted herself to being a woman of faith and an example to those around her, always championing Christian values in a shifting culture.”

Jerry Jenkins, who co-wrote the “Left Behind” novels with her husband, praised her contributions.

“I treasure my memories of Beverly LaHaye,” Mr. Jenkins said via email. “She was a great example of a wife and mother, just the right partner for Dr. Tim LaHaye. A leader in her own right, she was an example of the believer in word and deed.”

The Rev. Johnnie Moore, president of the Congress of Christian Leaders, said she had a sweeping impact.

“No woman in Christian history has had more of an impact in a single lifetime than Mrs. Beverly LaHaye,” Mr. Moore said via email. “She made history in hundreds of ways and inspired a generation of Christian women to put their faith into action. She was the matriarch of modern evangelical political engagement but always first, and foremost, a faithful Christian who never sought the power she had.”

Beverly Jean Ratcliffe was born on April 30, 1929, in Detroit. She was raised in an evangelical Christian household and attended Bob Jones University, where she met Tim LaHaye, an Army Air Force veteran of World War II.

Tim, her husband of 69 years, died in 2016, and 10 months later, her son Lee also died. Survivors include son Larry and daughters Linda and Lori, nine grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Correction: An earlier version of this article omitted the name of the LaHayes’ daughter Linda.

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