Trained as a political historian, I wrote my dissertation and first book on the Truman administration, through which I endeavored to understand the defining phenomena of the post-World War II United States: solidification of the political economy established in the New Deal and wartime mobilization; the origins of the Cold War and national security state; the rise of domestic anti-Communism; and the emergence of race as a critical national issue. Post-World War II political history continued as my specialization, while my growing interest in feminism drew me to women's history. My second book, The Home Front and Beyond: American Women in the 1940s, explained the impact of World War II on diverse groups of women in the United States, examining education, politics, military service, women's reproductive roles, and their representation in popular culture, as well as changes in their employment. My third book, From Margin to Mainstream: American Women and Politics since the 1960s, focused on the connections between second-wave feminism and government and politics, tracing women's growing influence as voters, lobbyists, candidates, and officials, and the resulting policy changes. While working on a U.S. history textbook, The American Promise, I became interested in the challenges of integrating women's history with mainstream political history. I was also awakened to the need to more fully connect feminism's successes and failures with national developments and institutions when I visited Greece, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia as a USIA lecturer in the 1980s. Speaking with academics, government officials and leaders of women's organizations in these countries, I sought to understand the different directions feminism has taken across national borders. The cross-national perspective highlighted the critical importance of civil rights activism and policy in shaping feminism in the United States, as well as the importance of particular male-dominated institutions and organizations in furthering and inhibiting feminist goals. This shaped my next monograph, The Other Feminists: Activists in the Liberal Establishment, which examined how male-dominated liberal organizations helped to spread feminist ideas, practices, and policies into the mainstream of American society. This work pushed back the origins of second-wave feminism into the 1950s, established the critical contributions of African-American women, working-class women and men, and religious women to feminist projects, and demonstrated how feminism was incorporated into the frames of economic and racial justice, individual rights, and Christian values.My project at the Wilson Center attempts to explain the path-breaking legislation against sex discrimination in the 1960s and early 1970s, when the feminist movement itself was still small and presidential advocacy virtually non-existent. Analyzing liberalism's departure from its historical gender conservatism and the economic underpinnings of second-wave feminism, I challenge claims that post-New Deal liberalism shifted from addressing material needs to guaranteeing individual rights and that political conflict moved from economic to social or cultural issues. I am equally interested in how conservatives wove opposition to feminism into the traditional fabric of the right by linking anti-feminism with anti-Communism, a strong military, and opposition to big government. I want to investigate the extent to which antifeminists' framing of feminism appealed not just to "family values" but also to material insecurity and class resentments. In the end I hope to contribute to the ongoing debate about the decline of liberalism and rise of conservatism by understanding how gender issues informed that transformation.
B.A. Washington University; M.A., Ph.D. University of Missouri
Gender Issues,Women in Politics,U.S. Studies
- Professor of History, Ohio State University, 1986-present
- Director, Center for Women's Studies, Ohio State University, 1986-92
- Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor of History, University of Missouri--St. Louis, 1966-86
- Program Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1978-79
- Visiting Associate Professor of History, Boston University, 1971-72
U.S. political history since World War II; U.S. women's movements and feminism; 20th century liberalism and conservatism in the U.S.; women and public policy
This study brings together political history and women's history by focusing on the mainstream of second-wave feminism, the anti-feminist counter-movement, and the relationships between both of these movements, the state, and politics. It seeks to explain how gender became visible in the political process, shaped a transformation of public policy, refashioned both liberalism and conservatism, and contributed to a realignment of politics.