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Jill Greenlee
(781) 736-2760
greenlee@brandeis.edu

The Political Consequences of Motherhood

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.