Cover image for The politics of women's rights : parties, positions, and change
The politics of women's rights : parties, positions, and change
Wolbrecht, Christina.
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Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xvi, 266 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Women's rights and the American parties -- Of presidents and platforms -- Women's rights in the House and Senate -- Explaining party issue realignment -- Equilibrium disruption and issue redefinition -- Shifting coalitions and changing elites -- The politics of women's rights.

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HQ1236.5.U6 W63 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Here Christina Wolbrecht boldly demonstrates how the Republican and Democratic parties have helped transform, and have been transformed by, American public debate and policy on women's rights. She begins by showing the evolution of the positions of both parties on women's rights over the past five decades. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Republicans were slightly more favorable than Democrats, but by the early 1980s, the parties had polarized sharply, with Democrats supporting, and Republicans opposing, such policies as the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion rights. Wolbrecht not only traces the development of this shift in the parties' relative positions--focusing on party platforms, the words and actions of presidents and presidential candidates, and the behavior of the parties' delegations in Congress--but also seeks to explain the realignment.

The author considers the politically charged developments that have contributed to a redefinition and expansion of the women's rights agenda since the 1960s--including legal changes, the emergence of the modern women's movement, and changes in patterns of employment, fertility, and marriage. Wolbrecht explores how party leaders reacted to these developments and adopted positions in ways that would help expand their party's coalition. Combined with changes in those coalitions--particularly the rise of social conservatism within the GOP and the affiliation of social movement groups with the Democratic party--the result was the polarization characterizing the parties' stances on women's rights today.

Author Notes

Christina Wolbrecht is the Packey J. Dee Assistant Professor of Government and International Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Her current projects include an investigation into the voting behavior of women following their enfranchisement in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Wolbrecht (Univ. of Notre Dame) analyzes the development of Democratic and Republican positions on women's rights since the 1950s. Using an impressive combination of empirical analyses and historical research, she demonstrates the Republican Party's shift from support for women's equality to increasing hostility toward such measures. Meanwhile, the Democrat Party shifted from protectionism to staunch support for women's rights. The 1980 election was a turning point for both parties on women's rights. The Republicans ended their support for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1980, shifting to a "family values" platform. Feminists became a stronger force within the Democratic Party, fortifying the party's support for the ERA and women's rights. Wolbrecht offers empirical support for the evolution of the parties' positions, in part through statistical analysis of pro-women's rights statements in party platforms and analyses of the records of House and Senate members. Wolbrecht systematically illuminates the polarization and shift of the parties' positions on women's rights and offers insights on interrelated issues. She examines the evolution of women's rights as a political issue and its impact on party politics. She also demonstrates the resilience of party elites to respond to societal change and absorb new elements in party coalitions, thereby structuring voter choices on this major issue. Recommended for undergraduates, graduates, and specialists. M. Hendrickson; Wilson College

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
List of Tablesp. xi
List of Acronymsp. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Chapter 1 Women's Rights and the American Partiesp. 3
Chapter 2 Of Presidents and Platformsp. 23
Chapter 3 Women's Rights in the House and Senatep. 73
Chapter 4 Explaining Party Issue Realignmentp. 108
Chapter 5 Equilibrium Disruption and Issue Redefinitionp. 134
Chapter 6 Shifting Coalitions and Changing Elitesp. 181
Chapter 7 The Politics of Women's Rightsp. 226
Appendixp. 239
Referencesp. 243
Indexp. 259