Kathleen O'Connor grew up on the island of Trinidad in the West Indies, but emigrated to the United States after working as an au pair for relatives in New York, and meeting her future husband. They moved to Chicago, Illinois, and Kathleen became very active in social issues through the Catholic Church. She was Phyllis Schlafly's chief lieutenant in Illinois during the decade long struggle to pass the ERA in the state legislature. After Schlafly's Stop-ERA movement successfully blocked its passage, Sullivan worked on abstinence issues in Illinois, especially Project Reality. She also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1990 and 1992.