Beverly LaHaye, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 94, went from being too shy to lead a prayer group at her church to founding and shepherding one of the largest women’s advocacy groups in the country.

How did she do it?

Mrs. LaHaye credited the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, as well as her decision to commit every aspect of her life to Jesus Christ.

Born Beverly Davenport in Detroit, Michigan, her father died when she was just two. Her mother would eventually remarry. Reared in a Christian home, the future pastor’s wife and conservative woman revolutionary was studying her mother closely, especially as she navigated the challenges of a stepfamily and meager resources. Thanks to her mom’s example, Beverly said she came to believe “women can be very powerful, in quiet ways.”

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Enrolling in Bob Jones University would prove to be a pivotal turning point for Beverly. It’s there she’d meet Tim LaHaye, her future husband and pastor and author, who is best known for co-writing the Left Behind series with Jerry Jenkins.

From the very beginning, the LaHayes were a dynamic ministry-minded couple. Stepping away from school to support her new husband, Beverly was committed to taking on any task that would complement her husband’s pastoring. Whether typing, filing, answering phones, leading the Sunday school department, or writing and producing marriage and parenting resources, the new Mrs. LaHaye was up for the challenge – but she preferred things behind the scenes.

A Fateful Night

Watching Barbara Walters interview Betty Friedan on television one evening in 1978, Mrs. LaHaye was struck by what she was hearing from the era’s leading feminist.

“Something in me was stirred to action as I realized Betty Friedan thought she was speaking for the women of America,” she recalled. “I found myself verbally saying to Tim, ‘They don’t speak for me! And I don’t think they speak for the vast majority of women in America.’”

Many of us have been frustrated by the things we hear and see in media – but Beverly did something about it.

 “I think God just pushed me up out of my chair and said, ‘Beverly, go for it,’” she remembered. “Anything I’ve done is not my natural way, but God has put it in my heart to do it. You know, when you say, ‘Whatever Lord, wherever You send me, whatever You want me to say, whatever you want me to do, here I am,’ you better hang on. You better hang on tight.”

Calling a meeting in a neighborhood hall, the property owner inquired about the name of the organization. She told him they were “just a group of ladies in the community.” Told they only rented to organizations, LaHaye spontaneously and somewhat facetiously told him their name: “Concerned Women for America.”

Soon the local group was overflowing, leading to the establishment of chapters in other areas.

CWA first tackled the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which was picking up steam and appeared to be heading towards eventual passage.

Joining forces with Phyllis Schlafly, Beverly LaHaye and CWA successfully warned that the legislation threatened to expand abortion, and would lead to same-sex marriage and women getting drafted by the military.

At the time of CWA’s rise, Mrs. LaHaye said, “Churchwomen all over America were hungry for someone to sort out the things that would affect families and the religious values systems they had. From there, it took off like a prairie fire.”

It was said that Beverly LaHaye represented the “forgotten woman” who had strong moral convictions and remained committed to living in accordance to God’s Word. She was certainly all of that – and a reminder that God can and will use anybody if they’re willing to stand up and speak out.

“When we do what is right, we have contentment, peace and happiness,” she once said.

Beverly LaHaye was a woman from another era uniquely gifted and equipped to face the trials of her age. But the qualities she possessed and practiced, from her grace to her guts, from her feistiness to her fierceness – those are the very same traits and characteristics the Christian church desperately needs more of today.

Mrs. LaHaye is survived by her four children, nine grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren.

“It is hard to imagine a woman who has had a greater impact on our culture than our founder,” said Penny Nance, CWA’s current president and CEO. “We are forever grateful for her vision, her wisdom, and her spiritual leadership. A tenacious woman of God, her legacy will live on and be cherished by the organization she founded and the millions of people she has touched.”


Image credit: LaHaye Family