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The Search for Political Woman
by Jo Freeman

This article is the Prologue of Jo's book We Will Be Heard:Women's Struggles for Political Power in the United States

Long ago social scientists created a hypothetical construct which they called "political man." While those who used this term probably thought of it as a generic reference rather than sex-specific, it wasn't. If asked, they probably would have said there was no such creature as "political woman." In reality women's arrival as a factor in politics, in the 1880s and 1890s, coincided with the emergence of the social science disciplines, but the social scientists simply didn't see them. To them, political woman was neither distinct from political man, nor part of political man. She simply didn't exist.

When sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset published his book on Political Man in 1960, he said in the Forward that a principle topic was "the factors which affect men's participation in politics, particularly their behavior as voters." (1963, x). But women are not mentioned at all and sex differences only on one page, where he observes without further comment that women in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s were more likely to vote for the conservative or religious party than were men. That same year (1960) the Democratic National Committee issued a short pamphlet on the "History of Democratic Women" (prepared by the Democratic Congressional Wives Forum); both the New York Times Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post published articles on the woman voter, (Hastings 1960; Shalett, 1960), Perle Mesta, who had been a major contributor to both parties and Minister to Luxembourg under Truman, published My Story, Maude Wood Park published her lengthy inside story of how women won the 19th Amendment, and John Talmadge published a book-length biography of the first woman appointed to the U.S. Senate. Rebecca Latimer Felton had been a major factor in Georgia politics for several decades though she was only Senator for a day. While this isn't much for one year, especially a Presidential election year, it does illustrate that at least some people knew women were working in politics and had been for some time, but they weren't social scientists.

I'd like to think that political scientists, especially those that studied voting behavior, were a little more aware of "political woman" than political sociologists such as Lipset. But, as documented by Flammang (1997) and Nelson (1989), they weren't. Although a gender gap of five to six percent had appeared in the elections of 1952 and 1956, leading Republican women to crow that "Women Elected Ike," (Priest 1953, Shelton 1955, RNC 1962) political scientists barely noticed.

The mainstream press did not completely ignore women. Newsweek covered "Women in National Politics" in 1955. In 1956 the New York Times sent reporters into several states to find out why women favored Eisenhower. In 1958 U.S. News and World Report published a cover story on "What Women Do in Politics," and in 1960 it asked "Will Women Decide the Election?" In the 1950s political campaigns were labor intensive, and women were 80 to 90 percent of that labor. But political scientists had nothing to say about women in politics.

In 1968, when I started graduate school in Political Science at the University of Chicago, I didn't expect to find a course on women and politics. The women's liberation movement had just emerged and was not yet public. The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded in 1966. The small groups of what I later called the younger branch of the movement were just appearing. I had helped start one of them in Chicago in 1967 and was one of thirty women from five states to go to our first national gathering in August 1968. I knew we were doing something new. But I also knew we were doing something old because we were not the first women to protest our lowly status. I entered grad school hoping to find out something about my predecessors. While I didn't expect to find that political science had much to say about women, I did expect something. I found virtually nothing.


That same year, free lance writer Peggy Lamson published a book of biographies of ten political women, aptly titled Few Are Chosen, and political scientist Martin Gruberg published the first book-length study of Women in American Politics. Born in 1935 and raised in the Bronx, Gruberg stumbled into this topic from a background in public law. On completing his dissertation at Columbia University in 1963, he started teaching in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Needing a book to get tenure, he looked around for a hole crying to be filled. Gruberg saw women as a minority group in politics that had been largely ignored. Encouraged by his academic advisors and by two women he met at a March 1964 conference on getting women into politics (who would help found NOW in 1966) held in Madison, Wisconsin, he collected data eclectically. At the 1964 national nominating conventions he interviewed whomever he could find willing to talk about women in politics. Although he had no outside financing, Gruberg traveled to New York City and to party headquarters in Washington, D.C. to do more interviews and visited the Schlesinger Library in Boston. He picked up some basic pamphlets from the national committees and found a few articles in the popular press, but little scholarship. He couldn't synthesize the scholarly literature because there wasn't any to synthesize. What he found out about political woman came from anecdotes, newspaper clippings, booklets, and a few statistics. Persuading a publisher to tackle a new topic was also difficult. "Women" had a niche in the popular press, but scholars did not take it seriously.

I went to both party conventions as well -- to picket and vigil for civil rights. I was about to begin my senior year at Berkeley, and had been working for Democratic Party candidates since 1952. To give you some idea of how remote "women in politics" was from public consciousness, the only thing Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith's campaign for President meant to me was that she put out a unique oval pin with a rose on it. I was totally oblivious to the fact that she was the first woman to actively campaign for a major party nomination for President, and so was everyone else I encountered at those conventions.

At the 1968 Democratic convention (conveniently held in Chicago) I was a budding feminist and no longer oblivious, but I neither met nor saw anyone I recognized as a political woman. Berkeley political scientist Aaron Wildavsky came to Chicago to study delegate decision making, in expectation of a contested convention. As one of several students he hired to do interviews, and the only one with convention press credentials, I talked to a lot of people that week. No one -- not political scientists, students, delegates, the press or protestors -- had one word to say about women; nor did I see any programs, posters, or panels on women's rights or women in politics.

In fact, women were making noise that year, but were drowned out by all the other protests going on. Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D. MN) had challenged President Johnson in the Democratic primaries. While his focus was the War in Vietnam, as the chief Senate sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment, he made statements for it part of his campaign. In fact, all of the candidates running in both major party primaries in 1968 (except Robert Kennedy) supported the ERA, though the others said little. Representatives from NOW and from the National Woman's Party (NWP) testified in favor of an ERA plank before the Platform Committees of both parties, but the final documents had somewhere between little and nothing on anything to do with women, let alone the ERA.

Some places were prescient. In my home state of California, the Democratic Party added a very strong plank on women's rights to its 1968 state party platform. Very little notice was taken of any of these. The revolution was coming, but no one knew it.

I began my own search for political woman in order to write a term paper for a course on public policy at the University taught by Theodore Lowi, who was also my academic advisor. While he encouraged me to pursue the topic, the only help he could give me was a copy of Gruberg's book after I told him about it. Entering grad students were encouraged to do library research rather than original research, but I found nothing there. In the Law Library I found some law review articles on women and the law, which Leo Kanowitz aptly called "The Unfinished Revolution." Apart from Kanowitz, most dated from the 1920s and 1930s. There were a few recent pieces, enough to cobble into a suitable term paper, but "women and the law" was not about "political woman."

The articles in Gruberg's bibliography specifically on political women were in popular magazines like the Ladies' Home Journal and Woman's Home Companion, and most were written years ago. Decades later I would learn that women's magazines and the women's pages in newspapers were where information on women in politics was to be found. But they did not grace the shelves of the University of Chicago library, and if I had found and cited them in a term paper, my work would have been dismissed as trivial.

I met my first political woman in the archives of the University, where she had been buried for many years. Inspired by an undergraduate sit-in during the Winter 1969 quarter to protest the firing of Sociologist Marlene Dixon, I wanted to know just how many women had held faculty positions in that department. My quest led me to a small room where the course catalogs were stored. I spent a week reading and taking notes from every catalog put out since the University was founded in 1892. Finding too few women in Sociology to count, I expanded my search to six Departments. It was in these catalogs that I discovered Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge. After tracing her career, I returned to the library, where I discovered entries on her books occupied 3/4 of an inch in the card catalog. I also found an ancient historian, Bessie Pierce, who knew her before her death in 1948. Pierce was the only one I found on the campus in 1969 who had ever heard of Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge, even though she had been a prominent and distinguished professor at the University for many decades.


The more I learned about Breckinridge the more she became my model of a political woman, the one whose path I would have followed if fate had been so kind. What appealed to me was how she combined scholarship with activism in pursuit of public policy to better the lives of everyone, but especially women. Born in 1866 into a distinguished Kentucky political family, she was the first woman to be admitted to the Kentucky Bar and practice law. In the mid-1890s she moved to Chicago where she received a joint Ph.D. in the Departments of Political Science and Economics in 1901. She promptly entered the Law School, getting her J.D. in 1904. Armed with three doctorates, she became an instructor at the University, in the Department of Household Administration. This was the "women's studies" department of its day; here Breckinridge taught courses on the legal and economic position of women.

Today her career would be characterized as one in social work education. She helped pioneer that profession, arranging for the University to adopt what became the School of Social Service Administration in 1920. But she was a political woman -- working in the Progressive Movement through such organizations as the Women's Trade Union League to write laws she felt would benefit women, serving as Vice President of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association and campaigning for the Progressive Party in the election of 1912. As a social scientist, she did extensive field research, making observations and taking detailed notes on how people lived and worked. She did not gather these facts for their own sake, but so that government could better tend to the needs of people. To Breckinridge, knowledge needed to be useful, and action needed to be informed.

When the Depression began, President Herbert Hoover named a Research Committee on Social Trends to provide scientific information on the problems now confronting the country. Breckinridge was commissioned to write a monograph on women, financed by the Rockefeller Foundation. Published in 1933 as Women in the Twentieth Century: A Study of Their Political, Social and Economic Activities, roughly one-third of its 364 pages are on "Women and Government." Surveying women as voters, lobbyists, party workers and office holders, it was the first comprehensive study of women in politics. She concluded that women had made great strides in organizing voluntary associations, and through them could affect some public policy, but the formal institutions of government and the parties had opened the door to women only a little (Breckinridge, 1933, 288).

The U.C. sit-in created much interest in the status of women. I gave four lectures on my archival findings at rallies, seminars and colloquia that quarter. I also wrote a pamphlet using data from the Handbook on Women Workers which was widely distributed, and published an article in The Nation on "The New Feminists." As a result quite a few students asked me to teach a course on women in the Spring quarter. Of course, the course was non-credit and I was not paid, but so what else is new? To get a room on campus I needed a faculty sponsor. All the left-leaning men and every woman faculty member I asked turned me down. Finally, Don Scott, a very junior history professor in the undergraduate college, agreed to "front" the course. He made copies of the syllabus and some of the readings for us and gave independent study credit to any student who needed it even though he had to read term papers to do this. U.C. didn't give him tenure, and probably didn't even give him credit for this extra work. The "Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge Memorial Course on the Legal and Economic Position of Women -- (formerly H.A. 21)" included material on public policy issues of relevance to women, such as Title VII and the ERA, but women's political work was notable by its absence.


Politics was left out of my course because Gruberg's book only existed in hardcover, was not in the library, and I couldn't find anything else for my "students" to read. What I needed was a current version of the 90 page paper on "The Political Role of Women in the United States" written by Louise Young in 1952 for UNESCO. At the request of the UN's Commission on the Status of Women, UNESCO asked the International Political Science Association to conduct a survey of member nations on women in political life. IPSA asked the League of Women Voters to prepare the US report, and it asked Louise Young to do so, pro bono. An active League member, Young had published a small book on Understanding Politics: A Practical Guide for Women in 1950. She reported later that "American political scientists were either indifferent or regarded the survey as of no importance and none offered to help." (oral history, 1982, 116)

Seventeen countries submitted reports -- four written by women. Several of these were presented at a conference held at The Hague on September 8-12, 1952. Louise Young borrowed money from her father to attend the conference and present the US report. Surveys from four countries became the basis of a short book written by Maurice Duverger on The Political Role of Women. Norway, West Germany, France and Yugoslavia were chosen because they had the best data. Young's report became a pamphlet distributed overseas by the US Information Agency. However, I did not know about this pamphlet in 1969, and despite some serious searching, I've never seen a copy.

Louise Young was one of the few scholars looking at political women who bridged the gap between Breckinridge and Gruberg, but she did her work largely as a labor of love. Born in Ohio in 1903, she came of age with the Suffrage Movement in a family that followed politics closely. She always remembered the excitement of the 1912 election. Following her husband to the University of Pennsylvania in 1925, she did graduate work in English. Her 1939 Ph.D. did not bring paid employment. In the 1930s and 1940s married women were not expected to work, especially while raising their children. They were hired for professional jobs, even teaching, only when men or single women were not available. It was the League of Women Voters, which she joined as a suburban Philadelphia housewife in the 1940s, that became the base for her scholarly as well as public activity for the rest of her life.

After the family moved to Washington D.C. in 1946 Young combined raising three children, scholarly research and volunteer work. Her research was facilitated by a cubicle in the Library of Congress from which she catalogued and archived the League's papers for the Library, edited a special volume of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science on "women's opportunities and responsibilities" (May 1947), and collected information on the history of women in politics. She did all this, she later said, in the "interstices" of her life (oral history, 1982, 89). In 1953 the President of American University, the husband of a childhood friend, asked her to teach part time to help alleviate the shortage of Ph.D.s on the faculty. She became a full time faculty member in 1955 and taught until 1971.

In 1967 Young was invited to prepare a major history of the League of Women Voters to commemorate its 50th anniversary in 1970. This project took more time than she expected, and by the time it was finished in 1973, both the publisher and the League had lost interest. It was put on the back burner for another decade, until finally published in 1989 as In the Public Interest: The League of Women Voters, 1920-1970. Young learned from her study of League history what Breckinridge had concluded in 1933 -- that women influenced public policy through voluntary associations rather than by electing sympathetic individuals to office. While women were politically active everywhere as individuals, only when organized as women were they listened to.

The anniversary Young missed -- 1970 -- was the take-off point of the new feminist movement. That was the year all the major media "discovered" women's liberation and did major news stories about it. When NOW held its march down New York City's Fifth Avenue on August 26 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the world witnessed an uprising of American women.

Even Political Science, which had successfully ignored women for so long, had to pay attention. Although women were less than ten percent of the profession (how much less depends on what is measured), in 1969 an official Committee on the Status of Women was appointed and an unofficial women's caucus organized to press for equal opportunity for women in the discipline. While neither of these groups had the study of political woman on its agenda, panels on women soon proliferated at the annual meetings of both national and regional associations. Jane Jaquette gathered many of these papers into an anthology on Women in Politics, published in hardcover in 1974. Marianne Githens and Jewel L. Prestage brought out another paperback collection in 1977. Its title -- A Portrait of Marginality -- summarized its message: five of its 24 chapters were specifically on black women in politics.

The causal connection was very clear. The new feminist movement attracted press attention, media coverage created scholarly interest across disciplines in what women were doing, convention organizers looked for panels that would bring audiences, and scholars responded by writing papers. In effect, demand created supply. It wasn't the curiosity of scholars or the availability of research that legitimated the search for political woman; it was trendiness. Soon journals were looking for special editions and publishers were looking for books on this hot, new topic. In 1967, Martin Gruberg found little interest by publishers in his book. By 1972, publishers were writing me, a mere graduate student (albeit well-published), asking if I had a book in hand. In that period of emerging interest in women and resulting high demand, I found it easier to write for publication than to write term papers.


Many others rode this wave, to judge by the sudden profusion of articles on women, feminism and related topics to appear first in the popular press and then in scholarly journals. Louise Young was asked by the Journal of Politics to contribute an article on women to commemorate the bicentennial (1976). She had on hand enough pages for a book on two hundred years of women's involvement in American politics, which she compressed into 9,000 words. The full manuscript was never published, but articles and books by others elaborating on what Young said in 1976 have been appearing ever since.

Institutions as well as individuals joined the search for political woman. In 1971 the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, established in 1956 with a small endowment from suffragist Florence Peshine Eagleton, secured $50,000 from the Ford Foundation to create a Center for the American Woman and Politics (CAWP). It opened in July with Ruth Mandel, another English Ph.D., and Ida Schmertz, an ABD in Russian Studies, as co-directors. Since Eagleton's primary focus is on state politics, CAWPs first major project was a conference of women as one of several meetings of "up-and-coming" state legislators. Of the 344 women then in this office, the LWV, BPW and the AAUW nominated two each from 25 states, who were perceived as influential. The Carnegie Corporation provided $15,000 to bring them to a Pennsylvania retreat for three days in May, 1972.

Mandel and Schmertz thought this was a marvelous opportunity to learn who these women were and what it was like to be a political woman. After Basic Books expressed interest in publishing something broader than a conference report, they invited Jeane Kirkpatrick to design a study and obtained $71,000 from the Carnegie Corporation to fund it. The women who came to the conference filled out a long questionnaire and submitted to individual interviews of two to three hours. This information and transcripts from the discussions were turned over to Kirkpatrick for assessment and analysis. The result was her 1974 book Political Woman. Her "most important finding ... [was] that political woman exists." But she recognized that "[f]or women to achieve de facto political equality,... both a cultural and a social revolution is required." (Political Woman, 1974, 217, 244).

Kirkpatrick was the ideal person for this job. One of only a handful of women to hold the rank of full professor in a Ph.D. granting Department of Political Science, she was well-connected in the discipline, well-respected and personally interested in the position of women, especially as political actors. Born Jeane Duane Jordan in 1926 in Oklahoma, she too came from a family with strong political interests. Her childhood in Oklahoma, Illinois and Missouri led her to New York, where she completed her B.A. at Barnard in 1948 and her M.A. at Columbia in 1950. After working for a few years, she married Dr. Evron M. Kirkpatrick, the new Executive Director of the American Political Science Association. Like Louise Young, she devoted the next few years to raising their three sons while continuing with her research and writing in Washington, D.C. She finished her Ph.D. at Columbia in 1968 and was promoted to full professor at Georgetown University in 1973. As a political scientist, her training was in political theory and comparative government, but when she met Harold Lasswell she became very interested in behaviorism. She thought women were a distinctive group, and was puzzled why they did not have a distinct political behavior. The CAWP study provided a welcome opportunity to answer some of her questions.

Her own search for political woman began well before CAWP tapped her to author its study of state legislators. In August of 1970 Warren Miller, Director of the Center for Political Studies at the University of Michigan, brought together a group to design a study of delegates to the 1972 national nominating conventions. Kirkpatrick was invited in because they wanted to compare men and women delegates. Traditionally, women were only 12 to 15 percent of the delegates to the Democratic Party convention, and 15 to 18 percent of Republican delegates. However, in response to its tumultuous 1968 convention, the Democrats were revising their delegate selection rules. Guidelines were proposed that required minorities, youth and women be represented in each state's delegation "in reasonable relationship to their presence in the population of the state." Women's presence in the 1972 convention seemed likely to increase significantly. Although the Republicans were not considering a similar requirement, spillover from the Democratic efforts and new consciousness by women was having an effect. The investigators felt that women would be numerous enough to examine as a class, and not as "idiosyncratic individuals." Furthermore, women delegates could be matched with an equivalent sample of men.


The Russell Sage Foundation gave $125,000 to the University of Michigan for a study on "Women in Politics." A questionnaire was sent to all delegates attending both conventions and personal interviews were done with a carefully chosen sample. With $124,804 in additional funding from the Twentieth Century fund, Kirkpatrick wrote a 600 page book on The New Presidential Elite that was published in 1976. The book shifted focus when she found party differences more important than sex differences. However, unlike prior studies of delegates, roughly one-fourth of her book emphasized "Women in the Presidential Elite." She concluded that "women's low participation in power today derives from relatively low political ambition and from male prejudice," but that the women delegates (and a lot of men) believed "that there would be a major change in women's political roles in the next ten years." (1976, 488-9).

I went to the 1972 Democratic convention as an alternate with the Chicago Challenge Delegation that unseated Mayor Daley's hand picked delegates. I had run for delegate committed to Shirley Chisholm -- the first woman to actively campaign for the Democratic nomination -- in order to get her name on the ballot in Illinois' First District. Coming in 9th among the 24 who ran in that district enabled me to claim a spot among those who finally got those seats. The eight who won in the primary were all Daley delegates, running uncommitted. I was a beneficiary of the "affirmative action" policies in force that year, which created such a storm they were altered for 1976. Unlike 1968, women were a real presence at both conventions, both numerically and politically. It was a good year to study political woman.

As an alternate I didn't get Kirkpatrick's questionnaire or see any interviewers, and was completely unaware of her study. None of the people in my delegation mentioned it (and may have received the questionnaire after returning home) and none of my faculty at the University of Chicago knew of it either. There was so much going on at that convention it was easy for a political science study to be hidden from those who didn't know to look for it. I did go to a lot of caucuses and would have welcomed someone to talk to about my observations. But Ted Lowi had left for Cornell and none of the Chicago faculty had any interest in American political parties, let alone political women. In December I went to Berkeley where I had a long talk with Aaron Wildavksy, who helped me to better understand what I had seen and experienced. I mention this to show how hard it was for those who had common research interests in women to find each other, and how easy it was to be isolated. Even Young and Kirkpatrick never met. Although women political scientists were few, and those interested in political women were fewer, we didn't know each other. Until the women's movement got off the ground, communications networks among women scholars or scholars of women did not exist.

Kirkpatrick's work helped legitimate the study of women as a field within political science. But acceptance was delayed until the 1980s -- at the earliest. Some resistance was due to inertia. Men were ninety percent of all political scientists, and more at the higher levels where decisions about hiring and tenure were made. Some came from a perception about who did politics and why. As Jaquette said in her Preface, "Politics has traditionally viewed itself as a male field, and, with the possible exception of economics, it is the social science discipline which has responded with the least enthusiasm to the impact of the modern feminist movement." (1974, v) If one looks as the speed with which the study of women was accepted as a field of study in the different disciplines, the most important factor appears to be the number and the percent of women already in each discipline in the late 1960s.

Contributing to the resistance was the "affirmative action scare" which pervaded academia in the 1970s. While the idea that those who had traditionally been excluded from the academic disciplines should now be particularly sought after was originally intended to benefit scholars from racial minorities, it was the possible impact of more women that really scared the men. Sheer numbers made women a much greater threat than minorities, though both were seen as invaders with an alien agenda. Declining budgets for hiring new faculty exacerbated turf battles as insiders circled their wagons against outsiders. Women scholars who wrote about women were automatically viewed with suspicion. Even Kirkpatrick, who was as much in the political science establishment as a woman could be, ran into raised eyebrows when she told colleagues she was writing about women.


The backlash caused many casualties among pioneer scholars, especially those who did not have tenure. While Gruberg got tenure in 1968, I don't know of any woman whose primary research was on women in politics who got tenure in a Department of Political Science before the mid 1980s. Those who did publish on women were told to leave it off of their resumes when coming up for review. Others joined shaky women's studies programs just making their appearance on the academic scene, or held joint appointments. Many downgraded their aspirations to junior colleges, or full time adjuncting, or did something else.

Even established political scientists did not foresee that the trendy topic of the early 1970s would become a scarlet letter by the mid 1970s. In 1972 both Ted Lowi and Aaron Wildavsky encouraged me to write my dissertation on the new feminist movement; neither expressed concern that this might adversely affect my job prospects. In 1975 I published two books on women. One quickly became the leading introductory women's studies textbook. The other -- the published version of my 1973 dissertation -- won a $1,000 prize as the Best Scholarly Work on Women in Politics, given that year by the American Political Science Association to commemorate International Women's Year. My last academic job offer was in 1974. I received two one-year fellowships in Washington, D.C., but the gates to academe were locked and I could not find a key. Before I gave up and went to law school in 1979, I probably applied for every job in American government advertised in the APSA personnel newsletter. The feedback I received, second or third hand, was that "we don't need anyone to teach women and politics." Of course, I never taught such a course; I taught basic American government. But I wrote about women and politics.

Word soon got out that "women" was no longer "in". When I guest lectured at universities and at political science meetings, graduate students told me that their advisors told them not to write their dissertations on political women, and particularly not on feminism; it was too risky. Writing about political women paused for about a decade before picking up again. I too stopped researching and writing about women in politics, except for going to the quadrennial party conventions as a journalist for feminist publications. Not until 1986 did I once again commit time to write another major book on women and politics. What I began that year evolved into A Room At A Time: How Women Entered Party politics, that was only published a year ago. Like Louise Young I did this on my own, as a labor of love, in the interstices of my life, with a little help from my friends.

Writing this book convinced me that academic researchers were not merely ignorant of the presence of political women, but willfully ignorant. Although "political woman" as a hypothetical construct did not exist until the 1970s, political women as active participants in elections and influencers of public policy had been quite common for at least a century. Party women, as a specific type of politically active woman, emerged in numbers worthy of note in the 1880s, and were extensively described and commented on in 1890s newspapers. Women were a major component of the Progressive Movement in the early 20th century, and not just in organizations devoted to women's issues. Women expanded the definition of politics and contributed enormously to the creation of interest groups as major players in the political process. Women particularly utilized this avenue to influence public policy because the parties made it clear that they wanted women's labor, but not their ideas. Nonetheless, many women organized their own party clubs and spent their time electing "good men" to public office, sometimes making a crucial difference in who won.

I discovered that the common wisdom that "feminism failed" after suffrage, because women did not vote as a bloc to reform the political system, was a myth. Suffragists never claimed that women would vote as a bloc. That assertion was made by the opposition. Nonetheless, there was a "gender gap" in the 1920s, with more women voting for the Republican Party, which the Democratic Party closed in the 1930s. It reappeared in the 1950s. Nor were women unorganized. The "Women's Lobby on Capitol Hill" was called by the American Medical Association the "most highly organized and powerful lobby ever seen in Washington." (Breckinridge, 1933, 259-60) The major political parties were so afraid that women would organize to exercise influence as women that in the years immediately following the 19th amendment they campaigned against "sex solidarity." Political leaders denounced women's political organizations as unAmerican unless organized within an existing political party, and demanded that political women choose between their party and their sex. The parties worked hard to co-opt women in order to control them, and largely succeeded. Party women were not complacent about this but their complaints were ignored.

While it may be true that history is written by the victors, and it is true that women were not the victors in the post-Suffrage struggle for political power, it is also true that scholars were blind to the battle. Political women commented on it; journalists wrote about it; but most scholars missed it almost entirely. When Roy Peel wrote his book on The Political Clubs of New York City covering the years 1927 to 1933 he saw women's clubs only as auxiliaries to the 1,200 regular male clubs. During those years there were hundreds of separate women's party clubs in New York City whose meetings and work were reported on in the newspapers. New York party women published three magazines for several thousand readers, but Peel appears not to have read them.


There were several Presidential elections in which women's participation as orators, campaign workers, and/or voters received major attention in the newspapers: specifically 1896, 1912, 1916, 1928, 1952 and 1956. The New York Times Index for 1936 has two pages of entries on women in the presidential campaign. Yet books written about these elections seldom give women more than a sentence or two. In the 1940s both major parties gave women equal representation on the national convention committees. When equal representation for delegates was being debated in the 1970s, no one seemed aware that this was not a radical new idea. Indeed, the concept that men and women should have equal representation on party committees started in Colorado in the 1890s, and was particularly popular in the 1920s and 1930s when many states required it.

This history disclosed that Breckinridge was asked to write her pathbreaking volume in a similar context that Kirkpatrick was asked to write hers. Consciousness about women in politics was high because 1928 was the "year of the woman voter." Throughout the 1920s the mass of women had been relatively apathetic about politics, enthused by only a few local candidates and none of the national ones. But Hoover was so popular that he became known as "the woman's candidate." (McCormick 1928, 22; Smith 1929, 126; Barnard, 1928, 555). Some of his popularity derived from his role as Food Administrator during the Great War, and some from the importance of Prohibition in the election of 1928. Hoover was Dry, Smith was Wet, and it was commonly assumed that women wanted Prohibition to be enforced. Women registered to vote in record numbers, and the Republican Party's Women's Division was "besieged by unprecedented numbers of women who wanted to participate in the campaign." (Morrison 1978, 84). Hoover was endorsed by the National Woman's Party, the only major party Presidential candidate to be endorsed by a specifically feminist organization prior to 1984.

Knowing history shapes our sense of the possible. Leaving women out of political science and political history let students falsely believe that political woman did not exist, that politics was something properly reserved to men, and women who tried to participate were "idiosyncratic individuals" rather than engaged and effective political actors who faced a lot of resistance.

Sometime in the 1980s political woman took her place in political science, recognized as a topic of inquiry and even warranting entire courses. Perhaps acceptance finally came through sheer persistence, augmented by the willingness of political scientists to reexamine the suppositions of the discipline. But I suspect it was because a highly publicized gender gap appeared in the polls done for the election of 1980. The fact that a lot of women were voting differently than men created a market for knowing why, and political scientists rushed to fill the void. Women politicians were also moving into public office in numbers too big to ignore. These provided incentives to study political woman. Once again demand created supply.



In addition to the sources cited below, information for this article came from personal conversations with Jeane Kirkpatrick, correspondence with Martin Gruberg, and material supplied by Louise Young's son, Crawford. I also interviewed Ruth Mandel, Director of the Eagleton Institute, Teresa Levitin, Warren Miller's former research assistant, and was sent information from the foundations' annual reports by Debra Brookhart, Archives Specialist at Indiana University, Indianapolis, where the foundation archives are stored.

Barnard, Eunice Fuller, "Madame Arrives in Politics," 226 North American Review, November 1928, pp. 551-6.

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, 1962, 16 page pamphlet.

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______, In the Public Interest: The League of Women Voters, 1920-1970, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1989.

______, "Women's Place in American Politics: The Historical Perspective", 38:3 Journal of Politics, August 1976, pp. 300-320,

______, oral history interview with Jeanette B. Cheek, September 27, 1982, Schlesinger Library.

"What Women Do in Politics," U.S. News and World Report, December 12, 1958, cover + pp. 72-9.

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"Women in National Politics," Newsweek, May 9, 1955, pp. 30-32.