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Women, Politics and Change

Women, Politics and Change

Louise A. Tilly
Patricia Gurin
Copyright Date: 1990
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 688
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  • Book Info
    Women, Politics and Change
    Book Description:

    Women, Politics, and Change, a compendium of twenty-three original essays by social historians, political scientists, sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists, examines the political history of American women over the past one hundred years. Taking a broad view of politics, the contributors address voluntarism and collective action, women's entry into party politics through suffrage and temperance groups, the role of nonpartisan organizations and pressure politics, and the politicization of gender. Each chapter provides a telling example of how American women have behaved politically throughout the twentieth century, both in the two great waves of feminist activism and in less highly mobilized periods.

    "The essays are unusually well integrated, not only through the introductory material but through a similarity of form and extensive cross-references among raising central questions about the forms, bases, and issues of women's politics, as well as change and continuity over time, Tilly, Gurin, and the individual scholars included in this collection have provided us with a survey of the latest research and an agenda for the future." -Contemporary Sociology

    "This book is a necessary addition to the scholar's bookshelf, and the student's curriculum." -Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, professor of sociology, City University of New York Graduate Center

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-534-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xviii)

    • 1 Women, Politics, and Change
      (pp. 3-32)
      Louise A. Tilly and Patricia Gurin

      So spoke Elizabeth Cady Stanton, feminist and suffragist, in her statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage, February 20, 1892. Her words are striking in their contemporary tone, in their inclusion of familial as well as formal political and civic equality. At the same time they echo eighteenth century Enlightenment ideas about individual rights and responsibilities, a long-lasting political model in the United States. Our view of women’s politics includes more than feminist politics, and we are more interested in collective action than in individual action: We begin here, however, because this quotation raises an important contextual theme...


    • [II Introduction]
      (pp. 33-34)

      Part II focuses on protopolitics, which includes both action in organizations that work outside the formal political arena and direct collective appeals to authorities, unmediated by organization. Lebsock, Hewitt, and Milkman examine women’s activity in organizations conventionally considered to be outside politics, activity which we believe is at bottom concerned with the distribution of power and resources in state or community, hence political. Jones and Fernández-Kelly and García explore the direct-appeal aspect of protopolitics. Taken together, these chapters begin to expand our definition of politics.

      Suzanne Lebsock opens by examining late nineteenth century and early twentieth century patterns of women’s...

    • 2 Women and American Politics, 1880–1920
      (pp. 35-62)
      Suzanne Lebsock

      Long before they were voters, American women were important political actors. The four decades preceding the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, in fact, were a great age for women in politics—certainly greater than anything that had been seen before and arguably greater than anything seen again until after the rebirth of feminism in the late 1960s. In the context of centuries of exclusion from formal politics, the rising of American women between about 1880 and 1920 was nothing less than phenomenal.

      Most men would not have used the word “politics” to describe what the women were doing. Instead they...

    • 3 Varieties of Voluntarism: Class, Ethnicity, and Women’s Activism in Tampa
      (pp. 63-86)
      Nancy A. Hewitt

      In August 1901 female tobacco strippers in Tampa, Florida, having been on strike for two months, circulated an appeal in Spanish “to the American Women,” asking them to help stop abductions of Cuban strike leaders by local “vigilantes.”¹ During the previous fifteen years, native-born women in the city had not hesitated to step into the public arena or to chastize their male kin and neighbors for immoral or improper conduct. As Tampa grew from a rural outpost to an urban center, these women had founded an astonishing array of voluntary associations, the most prominent of which was the local Woman’s...

    • 4 Gender and Trade Unionism in Historical Perspective
      (pp. 87-107)
      Ruth Milkman

      Labor unions have been the primary organizational vehicle available to represent the interests of American working women in the twentieth century and to struggle on their behalf against the twin inequalities of gender and class. Organized labor’s record in relation to women is, to be sure, rather mixed. On the one hand, unions have frequently fought to improve the wages and working conditions of employed women and have often challenged sex discrimination as well. Unionized women have always earned more and had better protection against management abuses than their unorganized sisters. They have also enjoyed greater access to meaningful representation...

    • 5 The Political Implications of Black and White Women’s Work in the South, 1890–1965
      (pp. 108-129)
      Jacqueline Jones

      As Florence Reece and Naomi Williams both later recalled, concern for the welfare of children—their own and others’—had impelled them to take an active part in the violent labor struggles that erupted in the South during the turbulent decade of the 1930s. The wife of a United Mine Workers organizer in Harlan County, Kentucky, Reece composed the stirring labor song “Which Side Are You On?” to bolster the spirits of striking workers in 1930. “Their children live in luxury/While ours is almost wild,” she wrote, contrasting the privileges afforded offspring of the mine owners with the deprivation suffered...

    • 6 Power Surrendered, Power Restored: The Politics of Work and Family Among Hispanic Garment Workers in California and Florida
      (pp. 130-150)
      M. Patricia Fernández-Kelly and Anna M. García

      This chapter addresses a dimension of political action neglected in most writings on politics. We examine the manner in which women participate in decision-making processes affecting the access to vital resources within their own households and as part of the larger wage economy. The women in question belong to one ethnic group (Hispanic), but two different national heritages (Cuban and Mexican), and represent at least two distinct class backgrounds (workers and small business owners). All of them have been, or still are, garment workers in Los Angeles and Miami counties. Their experience accounts significantly for the boom of apparel manufacturing...


    • [III Introduction]
      (pp. 151-152)

      In 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted women the suffrage in all constituencies. The great women’s social movement demobilized, and energies moved in two directions: (1) continued action through voluntary associations, some more formalized as pressure groups; and (2) electoral politics. Nancy F. Cott introduces these alternatives, which are expanded on by other authors in this part and in Part IV. Here distinctive and converging patterns of women’s electoral participation are examined among black and white women; their opportunities to become members of party elites and the attitudes of those who do are analyzed; and the varying...

    • 7 Across the Great Divide: Women in Politics Before and After 1920
      (pp. 153-176)
      Nancy F. Cott

      The Nineteenth Amendment is the most obvious benchmark in the history of women in politics in the United States, but it is a problematic one for the viewer who intends to include more than electoral events in the category of politics. Concentrating on suffrage and the electoral arena means viewing women’s politics through the conventional lens where male behavior sets the norm. Besides, there is real question whether women’s political influence before and after the national achievement of woman suffrage can be compared if politics is restricted to the electoral arena. Against what kind of earlier evidence should one assess...

    • 8 Women and Citizenship in the 1920s
      (pp. 177-198)
      Kristi Andersen

      Unfortunately such warnings were not heeded, and the advent of universal suffrage for adult white women was surrounded with a mass of often contradictory expectations, fears, and predictions. Some of these expectations about how women would perform in their new role as voters were extensions of the suffragists’ “expediency” arguments; others were based on claims of antisuffragists.² Many had, at their core, strong assumptions about basic differences between men and women with regard to their interests and their level of public-spiritedness. During the 1920s many articles, both scholarly and journalistic, attempted to argue that various of these hopes or fears...

    • 9 In Politics to Stay: Black Women Leaders and Party Politics in the 1920s
      (pp. 199-220)
      Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham

      Between 1900 and 1930 more than 1.5 million black men and women migrated from the South to the urban North. The massive trek, actually begun in the last decade of the nineteenth century, shifted into high gear during World War I when wartime demands from northern industry promised employment and most of all escape from the southern way of life—from its boll-weevil-ravaged sharecrop farming and from its segregation, disfranchisement and lynching. In the decade between 1910 and 1920 the black population soared upward in such cities as Chicago (from 44,103 to 109,458), Detroit (from 5,741 to 40,878), Cleveland (from...

    • 10 Women in Party Politics
      (pp. 221-248)
      M. Kent Jennings

      Since the late 1960s the second women’s movement and related processes have transformed the social and political landscape. The fuller incorporation of women into partisan politics, though perhaps a lesser manifestation, has been part of this alteration. One widely observed demonstration of this expansion occurred when the two major parties took a quantum leap by radically increasing the proportion of women delegates at the national nominating conventions. That there was great symbolic significance to that action is unquestionable. The substantive significance for the parties and for women is more problematic.

      This chapter examines the topic of women’s large-scale entry into...

    • 11 On the Origins of Political Disunity Among Women
      (pp. 249-278)
      David O. Sears and Leonie Huddy

      The women’s movement has long tried to mobilize American women as a self-conscious, solidary political force. The strength of these efforts has waxed and waned over the years, perhaps peaking in the early 1920s and again in the 1970s. There have been some big and dramatic successes, such as the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women’s suffrage; some less successful but nonetheless impressive efforts, such as the near miss of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA); and various indications of steady long-term progress, such as an increasing number of female candidates and elected officials.

      Many activists have striven to mobilize...


    • [IV Introduction]
      (pp. 279-280)

      Women’s (or primarily women’s) social movements such as temperance and suffrage pioneered interest group politics. Despite their greater participation in electoral politics and integration in party politics, women’s activity in interest group politics has continued to be substantial. Part IV includes a historical look at the characteristics of members of the League of Women Voters and its role in training women in politics, a study of women in contemporary religion, an analysis of the ERA ratification campaign in Illinois, and two studies of women in pressure politics today.

      A 1950s survey of members of the League of Women Voters offers...

    • 12 American Women in the 1950s: Nonpartisan Politics and Women’s Politicization
      (pp. 281-299)
      Susan Ware

      The 1950s continues to fascinate and, in many ways, to elude historians studying American women. The postwar years are full of contradictions: the heightened emphasis on domesticity which Betty Friedan termed “the feminine mystique” and a steady, indeed dramatic, increase in women’s wage force participation; in the 1950s the seeming political apathy and the nonparticipation of women; and in the 1960s and 1970s the explosion of social turmoil, especially the revival of feminism. Yet some historians are beginning to question this one-dimensional view of the 1950s. Unlocking the mysteries of the 1950s has the potential of not only encouraging a...

    • 13 Religion: Inhibitor or Facilitator of Political Involvement Among Women?
      (pp. 300-322)
      Robert Wuthnow and William Lehrman

      Across a large wooden desk in an office adorned with theology books, two women faced the pastor of a medium-sized nondenominational church. One was a college professor; the other, a professional musician. Both held advanced degrees from elite universities. As members of the pastor’s church, they had spent long months planning an annual retreat for women of the congregation. At issue was whether the Eucharist could be celebrated at the retreat, a task previously performed only by the pastor himself. The pastor, wishing to cooperate and above all avoid conflict within his parish, worried about the members’ reactions. When he...

    • 14 Organizing for the ERA: Cracks in the Façade of Unity
      (pp. 323-338)
      Jane J. Mansbridge

      In both the suffrage movement and the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution, American feminists acted with extraordinary external unity. From 1910 to 1920 in the mobilization for the suffrage movement, and in the late 1970s in the mobilization for the ERA, feminists of widely differing intellectual priorities, personal styles, and collective needs pooled their energies for a short, intense period in order to produce the near national consensus required to pass a constitutional amendment. Since then, feminist mythology has exaggerated the internal unity of these periods, holding them up as examples of the...

    • 15 Representing Women in Washington: Sisterhood and Pressure Politics
      (pp. 339-382)
      Kay Lehman Schlozman

      Pressure politics is a sphere of political activity characterized by reliance on the most traditional kind of old-boy political network, the unabashed pursuit of narrow self-interest, and, often, considerable skepticism about activity undertaken in the name of the public good.¹ Although women have only recently joined the ranks of professional lobbyists in large numbers, they have a long history of involvement in pressure politics. Their efforts on behalf of suffrage for women and social reforms brought them into the halls of government in Washington and the state capitals as advocates for causes in which they believed, if not as wheeler-dealers...

    • 16 The Mobilization of Members in Women’s Associations
      (pp. 383-410)
      David Knoke

      Women’s associations constitute a small proportion, perhaps 75 to 90 groups, of the 13,000 national associations.¹ The associations studied in this chapter are formal organizations, with predominantly female memberships, that take explicit stands favoring improved women’s status and opportunities in the larger society. They seek social and legal changes on issues including employment practices and pay equity, job training, health and reproductive rights, family law, racial and educational discrimination, and general governmental policies. Although some women’s associations—such as the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women—have been active for many decades, many—such as...


    • [V Introduction]
      (pp. 411-412)

      Part V examines some of the ways in which masculinity and femininity have been socially constructed or reconstructed in the twentieth century through political processes, including legislation and policymaking, litigation, and pressure group activities. The focus moves from women primarily as actors to women and gender as objects of action.

      Barbara J. Nelson examines the gendered nature of welfare legislation. She suggests that gender-specific systems of welfare arose from the parallel development of Mothers’ Aid (and later Aid to Dependent Children), legislated for women in the home who had lost their primary wage earner, and of Workmen’s Compensation, legislated for...

    • 17 The Gender, Race, and Class Origins of Early Welfare Policy and the Welfare State: A Comparison of Workmen’s Compensation and Mothers’ Aid
      (pp. 413-435)
      Barbara J. Nelson

      In the last decade there has been an outpouring of research on state formation¹ and more recently on the connection between state formation generally and the creation of the welfare state in industrial democracies. The recent work on welfare state formation has been led by Theda Skocpol, Ann Shola Orloff, John Ikenberry, and Kenneth Finegold, among others.² One major conclusion reached through their research is that, in large part, the relatively late emergence of the welfare state in the United States (during the New Deal) is due to an earlier distrust of corrupt parties as the administrators of benefit programs...

    • 18 Women, Family, and Politics: Farmer-Labor Women and Social Policy in the Great Depression
      (pp. 436-456)
      Elizabeth Faue

      Marian Le Sueur, a political activist and a member of the Farmer-Labor Women’s Federation (FLWF), raised this question in the context of the political debate on relief during the Great Depression, voicing the demands of many women that welfare boards protect men, women, and their families from the consequences of economic crisis. Le Sueur, along with other women of the Farmer-Labor Association (FLA), recast employment and relief as family issues, maintaining a strong connection between work and welfare as rights and the continued preservation of the child-centered family. This chapter explores some of the issues surrounding the historic position of...

    • 19 From Protection to Equal Opportunity: The Revolution in Women’s Legal Status
      (pp. 457-481)
      Jo Freeman

      Between 1963 and 1976 Congress and the courts made revolutionary changes in women’s status in law and public policy. Congress led the way by passing the 1963 Equal Pay Law, which for the first time committed the federal government to improving women’s economic position. It followed this up with the prohibition of sex discrimination in employment as part of the milestone 1964 Civil Rights Act. In the early 1970s Congress sent the Equal Rights Amendment to the states and added to the books numerous laws whose primary thrust was to prohibit discrimination in a wide variety of federal programs and...

    • 20 Women and Divorce Reform
      (pp. 482-502)
      Herbert Jacob

      It is a striking coincidence that divorce laws changed radically during a period of intense activity by feminists, beginning as the new feminist movement was becoming organized in the late 1960s and reaching a peak during the 1970s, a decade that could be called “the woman’s decade.” Then, during the early 1980s as the movement’s political force seemed spent, divorce law reform came to an end.

      Although these were years of extraordinary feminist activity if judged by the flourishing of feminist organizations, by the publication of feminist magazines and specialized journals, and by the efforts to obtain ratification of the...

    • 21 Freedom, Fantasy, Foes, and Feminism: The Debate Around Pornography
      (pp. 503-528)
      Alida Brill

      From the antiquated “filthy pictures” to the sophisticated horrors of modern pornographic films or the technological ease of sex videos for home use, pornography has long been with us as both notion and reality. The decision about what should, or can, be included in the free exchange of ideas is never a simple one, but in the case of pornography the definitional task itself becomes a venture into a fun-house hall of mirrors. Depending on the angle taken or the mirror used, the logic of control or freedom takes on a different image and shape. The attempt to control or...

    • 22 The Two Worlds of Women of the New Right
      (pp. 529-552)
      Rebecca Klatch

      The 1980s witnessed a resurgence of conservative activism commonly termed the “New Right.” Although no consensus exists on the exact boundaries of the New Right, generally the phrase is used to delineate a network of people and organizations that came into prominence in the mid-1970s, including conservative politicians such as Jesse Helms, Orrin Hatch, and Jack Kemp; conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation; general purpose organizations such as the Conservative Caucus, the National Conservative Political Action Committee, and the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress; as well as the religious sector, including prime-time preachers, the Moral...


    • 23 Women in American Politics
      (pp. 555-572)
      Sidney Verba

      The chapters in this volume are about the changing role of women in American politics in the twentieth century. The subject matter is rich and complex and the chapters reflect that richness. They cover various aspects of the subject, using varied methods and quite different intellectual perspectives. They look outward as well as inward: outward to the real world of politics to see how the political participation of women has changed and how that change has affected American politics, and inward to the social science disciplines that try to make sense of that change. The dual perspective is appropriate and...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 573-618)
  12. Name Index
    (pp. 619-638)
  13. Subject Index
    (pp. 639-670)