The Motherless State: Womens Political Leadership and American Democracy

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Women held only 15 per cent of U. A compelling exploration of this deficiency, "The Motherless State" reveals why the United States differs from comparable democracies that routinely elect far more women to their national governing bodies and chief executive positions. Seller Inventory AAH Book Description University of Chicago press. Brand New. Seller Inventory BTE Seller Inventory I Eileen McDonagh.

Publisher: University of Chicago Press , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title American women attain more professional success than most of their counterparts around the world, but they lag surprisingly far behind in the national political arena. Review : "The lack of female leadership in the United States is a serious puzzle. Buy New Learn more about this copy. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title.

Search for all books with this author and title. Customers who bought this item also bought. Stock Image. Start by pressing the button below! Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN cloth : alk. Women in politics—United States. Leadership in women—United States. Political leadership—United States. Democracy—United States. Sidney M.

Milkis and Jerome M.

The Motherless State Womens Political Leadership And American Democracy

Lawrence C. There are four who wrote extensive critiques of an earlier version of this manuscript that paved the way for cutting and clarifying, without which this project could not have moved forward.

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In addition, I thank Ira Katznelson for a series of extended conversations at this stage in the process that pointed the way out of the maze. Others, having been given leaner versions, also took the time to read and comment in writing, thereby providing additional stepping stones for moving forward for which I am also deeply grateful. I thank the AAUW for their generous support, which included funding a conference to discuss the issues raised by this book.

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American women attain more professional success than most of their counterparts around the world, but they lag surprisingly far behind in the national political arena. The book The Motherless State: Women's Political Leadership and American Democracy, Eileen McDonagh is published by University of Chicago Press.

In addition, a number of special conferences and academic invitations presented forums for testing a number of suppositions. I also thank Christina Wohlbrect for organizing and hosting an excellent conference on gender and American democracy at Notre Dame University and Karen Beckwith and Lisa Baldez for their pioneering vision evident at this conference and in their launching of the new journal, Politics and Gender. Two people, Jason Wittenberg and Robert Price, met with me on a regular basis for over a year to discuss each of our ongoing projects— each finished theirs much earlier than I did mine, but now that mine is in hand, it is with great appreciation that I recall how important were our conversations.

To De Kallgren special thanks for her patience and expertise in coding biographical information on over four thousand women leaders. Accolades, also, to the captain of the editorial ship, John Tryneski at the University of Chicago Press, who consistently combined over what ended up being years a seamless joining of intellectual insight with sensitive consideration for author and manuscript. To my second best buddy, Lesko, thanks for starting my every day with such tail wagging zest, and to my best buddy, Bob Davoli, all my love and thanks for so much for so long.

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Yet there are many groups in the United States to whom the country has consistently failed to keep its promise of equality. For African Americans the heritage of racialized slavery that marks the very founding of the American state is a blight upon our past. The virtual genocide of Native Americans in the wake of the expansion of the American state constitutes wrongdoing of gargantuan proportions.

The Challenges of Political Leadership Today

And today Americans and their government still struggle to find ways to guarantee the rights of massive numbers of immigrants whose lives belie the promise that America is a land of plenty for newcomers as well as for those already privileged to have access to its bounty. Despite the earning gap between men and women that stubbornly refuses to close, women in the United States currently have high rates of education and comparable, if not higher, rates of entry into the professions and business than do women in other industrial democracies.

As of women made up only The United States has an even lower percentage of women in its House of Representatives than do some less wealthy and less industrialized countries, such as Uganda Or to put it another way, what do other comparable democracies have that the American state lacks that would explain why most of them elect higher percentages of women to their national legislatures, if not also to their chief executive offices?

The basic duty of all states—if they are to be defined as such—is to maintain law and order within their own borders and to defend against intruders from outside their borders by means of police and military forces. Public policies based on liberal individualism, which typify democracies, promote the view that what makes women suitable for public office is their individual equality in comparison to men, that is, their sameness with men.

In the eyes of voters, women typically differ from men by having maternal traits, such as a predisposition to nurture and care for others. As a result, women running for political office typically end up becoming hybrid candidates, who go to great efforts to represent both male and female traits by establishing that they are both the same as and different from men.

Hybrid Candidates In the presidential primaries marked the entry of the first viable female candidate for nomination by a major political party, Hillary Rodham Clinton. During her vice presidential campaign Geraldine Ferraro was challenged repeatedly on her capability of handling international military crises.

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Recognizing that she had to establish her credibility on masculine political issues, Ferraro was explicit about how she would deal with military situations. For example, when questioned during the vice presidential debate by John Mashek, a correspondent for U.

How can you convince the American people. If the Soviet Union were to ever believe that they could challenge the United States with any sort of nuclear forces or otherwise, if I were in a position of leadership in this country, they would be assured that they would be met with swift, concise and certain retaliation. The recognition of women as individuals who can be considered on the same terms as men, however, has not had the effect of replacing their traditional identity as maternalists who differ from men.

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And if there were any political significance to baking them, why would a man not be required to testify about his prowess with a muffin tin? The answer is that blueberry muffins, like chocolate chip cookies, are comfort foods associated with social maternalism, or mothering. It is presumed that a mother will supply her children with the utilitarian baseline nutrients needed for growth and material well-being.

Yet mothering also implies the provision of warmth and love—something more difficult to find on a plate of brussels sprouts, perhaps, but abundant in a basket of warm muffins or cookies. To mother is not only to care for people in the utilitarian sense of the word but also to care for people in the emotional, feel-good sense of the word—to indulge, to coddle, and to serve.

The demand that Ferraro demonstrate both her toughness as a leader and her catering character as a mother may explain why media questioners had trouble accepting that she could perform either of these roles capably. Family Circle published both recipes, and the public was invited to vote for the one they thought superior. What has yet to be recognized, however, is the role of the state in fostering public attitudes about women as political leaders.

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When the state represents the hybrid combination of individual sameness and maternal group difference, voters learn that the maternal traits they associate with women signify a location not only in the private sphere of the home or in the service sector of the market, but also in the public sphere of political governance. As political scientists Karen Orren and Stephen Skowronek show, the simultaneous operation of opposite trends, developments, and institutional components is more often the norm than the exception in polit- Confronting the Puzzle ical processes.

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In order to elect women to political office, therefore, it is not enough for women themselves to be hybrid candidates. The state has to be a hybrid entity. What is also required is a government that adopts public policies representing the maternal traits that voters attribute to women.

From the normative perspective, it matters because the core definition of democracy is rule by the people. Descriptive representation refers to the norm that elected representatives should look like the population they represent. Serious underrepresentation of major groups in society undermines the normative claim that a country is a representative democracy.

Or as political scientist Virginia Sapiro puts it, a democracy minus women is not a democracy. As Janet Clark observes, members of relevant groups may not always entirely share the policy perspectives of their constituents. For example, both Republican and Democratic women elected to political office are more supportive than are men of legislation that benefits women in particular according to feminist principles of individual equality, such as abortion rights and publicly funded day care.

This is true in the United States and elsewhere.

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The question then becomes: How can governments adopt public policies representing the second principle, maternal traits? Maternal Traits The term maternal encompasses both gender and sex. Gender conventionally refers to the social roles ascribed to people on the basis of their socialized identities as female or male, while sex refers to their biological classification as female or male. The general assumption is that all people can engage in all roles associated with being human, including gender roles characteristically attributed to women.

As a biological construction, however, sex denotes a physical, material component, such as sex-specific genetic characteristics, female versus male reproductive organs, and varying levels of the reproductive hormones estrogen and testosterone.


To date, there appears to be no way to alter the defining genetic differences that are used to classify people as female or male, although there are ways to alter reproductive organs and hormone levels.