How and why politicians and activists appeal to motherhood to gain support
From civically and politically engaged women linking their identity as “mothers” to their fight for prohibition, public sanitation, and protective labor laws to the general call to arms of “mama grizzlies” issued by Sarah Palin in 2010, American political activists and candidates have used motherhood to rally women’s interest, support, and participation throughout American history. Politicized motherhood persists, and motherhood continues to inspire women’s participation and direct their concerns.
In The Political Consequences of Motherhood, Jill S. Greenlee investigates the complex relationship between motherhood and women’s political attitudes. Combining a historical overview of the ways motherhood has been used for political purposes with recent political opinion surveys and individual-level analysis, she explains how and when motherhood shapes women’s thoughts and preferences. Greenlee argues that two mechanisms account for the durability of motherhood politics. First, women experience attitudinal shifts when they become mothers. Second, “mother” is a broad-based identity, widely shared and ideologically unconstrained, that lends itself to appeals across the political spectrum to build support for candidates and policy issues.
Jill S. Greenlee is Associate Professor of Politics at Brandeis University.