Published Books

Motherhood and Politics

This research agenda, led by Professor Jill Greenlee, focuses on the many ways in which motherhood and mothers are central to American political life. Professor Greenlee has published one book on this subject, The Political Consequences of Motherhood, as well as several articles and book chapters.

Greenlee, Jill S. The Political Consequences of Motherhood. University of Michigan Press: 2014.
In The Political Consequences of Motherhood (University of Michigan Press, 2014), Jill Greenlee argues that despite the evolution of women’s political power and social roles in the United States, American political culture continues to see women first and foremost as mothers. In a time when women are workers, soldiers, business owners, and legislators, the imagery and rhetoric of motherhood in politics has reached a fever pitch. Looking beyond the political discourse that suggests women with children are either Grizzly Mamas or Soccer Moms, Greenlee carefully examines the impact of motherhood on women’s political beliefs. Using a variety of methodologies, this book shows there is a meaningful connection between motherhood and politics – historically and with regard to individual political attitudes. Both are nuanced and complex; empowering and potentially problematic.  Investigating the relationship between motherhood and female political attitudes, this book combines a historical overview of how motherhood has been used in the American political landscape over time with individual-level analysis exploring how and when motherhood shapes the thoughts and preferences of women. Using complementary approaches, this book identifies two reasons for the durability of motherhood politics.  First, motherhood explains attitudinal shifts that take place when women become mothers. Second, “mother” is a broad-based identity, widely shared and ideologically unconstrained, that lends itself to appeals across the political spectrum. This creates an opportunity for political actors to activate that identity when building support for a candidate or policy issue.
Deason, Grace, Jill S. Greenlee, and Carrie Langner. "Mothers on the Campaign Trail: Implications of Politicized Motherhood for Women in Politics." Politics, Groups, and Identities 3. 1 (2015).
The family, and motherhood in particular, have long been themes in American politics, but have been more prominent in the last three decades [Laurel Elder and Steven Greene. 2012. The Politics of Parenthood: Causes and Consequences of the Politicization and Polarization of the American Family. New York: SUNY Press; Jill S. Greelee 2014. The Political Consequences of Motherhood. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press]. Both parties present a traditional image of a two-parent, middle-class family, a structure that invokes notions of women in a traditional domestic role. The re-emergence of motherhood in American politics, which we refer to as Politicized Motherhood, presents challenges for women who pursue leadership positions. Like previous iterations of maternal politics that
justified women’s political actions during the Progressive Era, Politicized Motherhood has the potential to motivate women to run for office and to frame female candidacies in beneficial ways. Yet, it also has the potential to activate and reinforce gender stereotypes that undermine women’s capacity to see themselves as leaders and threaten female
candidates’ potential to be successful. This paper examines the implications of Politicized Motherhood for women who compete for political leadership roles in the USA. We argue that Politicized Motherhood is likely to impact each stage of a woman’s career in political leadership, from deciding to run to structuring a campaign and winning voter support. Ultimately, Politicized Motherhood is likely to exacerbate some of women’s political challenges, but may also have the potential to transcend these challenges.
Keywords: women; gender; family; mothers; motherhood; stereotypes; campaigns
Langner, Carrie, Jill S. Greenlee and Grace Deason. "Identity and Activism in the Era of Politicized Motherhood." In Mothers and Others: The Impact of Family Life on Politics. Ed. Melanee Thomas and Amanda Bittner. University of British Columbia Press, 2015 (forthcoming).
Greenlee, Jill S. "Soccer Moms, Hockey Moms and the Question of "Transformative" Motherhood." Politics & Gender 6. 3 (2010): 405-431.

From Dwight Eisenhower to John McCain, presidential candidates have appealed to female voters by highlighting motherhood in their campaigns. The most recent example of this has been the “hockey mom” trope introduced by the first hockey mom to earn a slot on the GOP presidential ticket, Governor Sarah Palin. These appeals, while motivated by political gamesmanship, imply that mothers see the political world a bit differently from other women. They suggest that women with children have different, political priorities and concerns and, at times, different positions on political issues. This article takes this proposition seriously, and asks the question: Does becoming a mother have a transformative effect on women’s political attitudes? Using longitudinal data from the four-wave 1965–97 Political Socialization Panel Study, I track the movement of women’s political attitudes on partisan identification, ideological identification, and policy issues. I find that the effects of motherhood on women’s political attitudes, while not uniform in nature, do push some women to adopt more conservative political attitudes. Thus, these results suggest that while motherhood does not transform women’s political attitudes, for some women motherhood does promote interesting attitudinal shifts.