Among the most dramatic changes in American life in recent decades has been the changing role of women in society. With this comprehensive study of gender equality debates in the party system from 1968 to 2000, Democrats, Republicans, and the Politics of Women's Place reveals the impact that these changes have had on the political parties. It brings new theory, data, and analyses to bear on the questions of party politics, electoral realignment, and the women's movement.
Kira Sanbonmatsu examines a wide array of gender equality debates—from abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment to childcare and the role of women in politics. She assesses the impact of gender issues on the parties' leaders and activists, the electoral strategies, and public opinion. While reproductive rights issues have become extremely partisan, other gender issues such as women's labor force participation and entry into politics have not. Thus, the extent to which gender equality issues have become partisan is more limited than previous studies suggest.
Sanbonmatsu explains that previous scholars have neglected the public's continued ambivalence about changes in gender roles. She suggests that the public remains divided on the most basic questions about this issue. Thus, several decades after the emergence of the modern women's movement, gender equality remains a radical goal. Additionally, the book demonstrates the difficulty of attempting to realign the electorate by courting a backlash against social changes.
"Given the author's focus on gender equality and political parties, Democrats, Republicans, and the Politics of Woman's Place is a valuable addition to scholarly collections and accessible to wider audiences . . . Scholars studying the origins of public policy will profit from her analysis of gender issues by more fully understanding the nuances of the debate over women's issues, the agenda-defining role played by political leaders, and ways in which the public engages in these debates."
—Perspectives on Politics