The Political Consequences of Motherhood

Jill S. Greenlee
How and why politicians and activists appeal to motherhood to gain support


American political activists and candidates have used motherhood to rally women’s interest, support, and participation throughout American history. Jill S. Greenlee investigates the complex relationship between motherhood and women’s political attitudes. Combining a historical overview of the ways motherhood has been used for political purposes with recent political opinion surveys and individual-level analysis, she explains how and when motherhood shapes women’s thoughts and preferences.

Greenlee argues that two mechanisms account for the durability of motherhood politics. First, women experience attitudinal shifts when they become mothers. Second, “mother” is a broad-based identity, widely shared and ideologically unconstrained, that lends itself to appeals across the political spectrum to build support for candidates and policy issues.

“Greenlee’s book speaks to a number of important streams of research and examines a set of phenomena that have shaped American politics at many levels throughout our history. . . . This book will immediately be recognized by scholars and instructors as a leading authority and reference.”
—Christina Wolbrecht, University of Notre Dame

The Political Consequences of Motherhood is an impressive accomplishment. Greenlee employs multiple methods and a historical time frame to bring new perspectives, challenge conventional wisdom, and add nuance to our understanding of the topic. I especially like the treatment of how mothers themselves ponder the consequences in their own lives.”
—M. Kent Jennings, University of California, Santa Barbara

Cover image: © Athos Boncompagni / iStock

Jill S. Greenlee is Associate Professor of Politics at Brandeis University.

Praise / Awards

  • "Greenlee’s analysis challenges monolithic conceptions of women, offering new insights on the construction of motherhood as a gender role with ideological, partisan, and electoral facets."
    --Journal of American History
  • "[Greenlee's] careful and insightful reading of moth-ers’ comments suggests that motherhood motivates political awareness, sparks new political concerns and displaces old ones, causes women to think more about the future, helps abstract political issues become more concrete, and leads women to feel greater empathy."
    --Mary K. Trigg, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society

Look Inside

Product Details

  • 304 pages.
  • 18 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12020-8

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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  • Women and politics, Motherhood, Soccer Moms, Political socialization, Grizzly mamas, Female voters, Women’s political attitudes, Political appeals, Political change