Women and Public Policy

Required Texts:


Whitaker, Women in Politics: Outsiders or Insiders? 3rd. ed. (Prentice-Hall, 1999)

Ryan, Feminism and the Women's Movement (Routledge, 1992)

Stetson, Women's Rights in the U.S.A. 2nd. ed. (Garland, 1997)


Carroll, Susan J., ed. The Impact of Women in Public Office. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2001.
Freedman, Estelle B. No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women. NY: Ballentine, 2002.
Mazur, Amy G. Theorizing Feminist Policy. NY: Oxford UP, 2002.
McBride-Stetson, Dorothy. Women’s Rights in the USA: Policy Debates and Gender Roles. 3rd ed. NY: Routledge, 2004.
Swers, Michele L. The Difference Women Make: The Policy Impact of Women in Congress. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2002.


All required journal articles and parts of books are on electronic reserve at the Library. For those that prefer a hard copy, the Library also has a photocopy of all materials at the Reserve Desk. These copies do not appear on the reserve list for this course, however; you must ask for them at the desk.

The required case studies can be found on the web page of the University of Minnesota’s  Humphrey School:

To subscribe to these free newsletters on women and public policy, go to: (National Organization for Women); (Women’s eNews) and sign up for “free subscription”; (Wisconsin Women’s Network) write to and ask to be added to the WWN E-bulletin distribution list; (Feminist Majority Foundation) sign up for the “Weekly Feminist News” at on the “Get Alerts, News, and Jobs” section.


Public policy is gendered in that men and women are affected differently by policies. Men and women also participate differentially in the policy-making process. We will examine how political science has treated the study of “gender” historically and feminist critiques of political science and public policy analyses. The relationship between women’s political activities in social movements, interest groups, political parties, and elections and the formation of public policies of interest to women will be a focus. We will also look at the impact of female office-holders upon these policies. We will further examine these differences by looking at particular policy areas, including constitutional equality, educational equity, workplace and family issues, reproductive rights, and violence against women.

Every student is expected to come to each class having carefully read the day’s common assignment. The format of the class will be guided discussion rather than lecture. I will ask questions that explore what you (by your submitted questions) and I consider interesting and important about the readings.


Weekly assignment: For every class session (except for December 7) each class member will submit at the end of class a one-page single-spaced paper giving a cogent abstract of the major points and ideas of each assigned reading. Scholars submitting their research for publication are required to provide an abstract of 100-200 words (around 100 words for articles/chapters and around 200 words for Freedman and Swers). Yours should be a “reader’s” abstract in contrast with one that may be provided in journal articles. (In sessions in which 6-7 articles/chapters are assigned, you may exceed the one-page limit.) For sessions October 26-November 16 include your independent reading as well. By noon on each Tuesday before class, each class member will e-mail the instructor one discussion question for use in class the next day. Hopefully, this will permit a more logical progression rather than each participant asking a question in turn. These assignments will be graded only with a“check” or “check minus” as a rough indicator of satisfactory personal effort. It is assumed that all will receive a “check.” Failure to submit a required abstract or discussion question will be noted. You may want to retain a copy of your abstracts for use on the take-home exams.

Class participation: The weekly assignments (above) as well as in-class discussion, class presentations of the research paper, independent reading, and the interview assignment comprise “class participation.” Again, it is assumed that each class member will be an involved and well-prepared participant.

Take-home midterm and final exams: Essay questions requiring the integration and synthesis of the common readings will be released on October 12 and December 7. Responses in a 10-page (maximum) double-spaced typed paper are due October 19 and December 14, respectively.

Interview paper: The purpose of this paper is to allow you to question at least one woman who is active in influencing public policy on women. (A further description of this assignment is appended.) The report on this interview should be 6-10 double-spaced typed pages. It is due in class on November 30 when you will also present a five-minute summary of your interview experience and findings.

Research paper: Because this is a research seminar, this project is the heart of the course. Individual research papers will focus upon one or more women’s policies  (e.g., emergency contraception) or a topic that integrates policy and political processes (e.g., the politics of RU-486 marketing in the United States). Since we can only cover a limited number of policy areas in the common readings, you are encouraged (but not required) to choose one of those “ignored” policies (e.g., women’s health or an international human rights issue such as female genital mutilation). For those coming from outside political science (e.g., history or law), your needs can be accommodated (e.g., through use of archival methods or a law review format). There will be somewhat lighter common readings after October 19 to allow more attention to your project. But selection of your topic and preliminary data gathering and literature review should begin much earlier in the semester. You must clear your topic with me by October 5 by simply noting your choice on a sheet of paper. Assuming that the topic is appropriate, you need to have at least one personal conference with me in my office between October 7 and October 26. A three-five page (double-spaced, typed) prospectus with attached (tentative) bibliography is due November 2. This paper should contain your research question as well as the approach and methods to be utilized. The final paper is due on December 7 and will be presented to the class. Most political science journals will only review manuscripts with a maximum length of 25 to 40 double-spaced typed pages (including all notes and tables). This should be your goal; however, you may single-space your tables and notes. 

The grade formula:

Class participation 15%
Mid-term exam 15%
Final exam 15%
Interview paper  15%
Seminar paper 40%


Aug. 31                  Class Orientation.

Sept. 7                    The Study of Gender and the Gender Gap in Political Science.

Bourque, Susan and Jean Grossholtz. “Politics as an Unnatural Practice: Political Science Looks at Female Participation,” in Feminism and Politics, ed. Anne Phillips, pp. 23-43. New York: Oxford UP, 1998.

Diamond, Irene and Nancy Hartsock. “Beyond Interests in Politics,” American Political Science Review 75 (3, 1981): 717-21.

Norris, Pippa. “The Gender Gap: Old Challenges, New Approaches,” in Women and American Politics, ed. Susan J. Carroll, pp. 146-170. NY: Oxford UP, 2003.

Norrander, Barbara. “The Intraparty Gender Gap: Differences Between Male and Female Voters in the 1980-2000 Presidential Primaries,” PS: Political Science and Politics 36 (April 2003): 181-6.

Sapiro, Virginia. “Feminist Studies and Political Science—and Vice Versa,” in Feminisms in the Academy, ed. Donna Stanton and Abigail Stewart, pp. 291-310. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995.

Sapiro, Virginia, “When are Interests Interesting? The Problem of Political Representation of Women,” American Political Science Review 75 (3, 1981): 701-16.


Box-Steffensmeier, Janet M., Suzanna De Boef, and Tse-Min Lin, “The Dynamics of the Partisan Gender Gap,” American Political Science Review 98 (3, 2004): 515-28.

Sept. 14                  Women’s Movements—Feminist and Anti-feminist.

Freedman (all)

Hammer, Rhonda. Antifeminism and Family Terrorism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002 (Chapter 1, pp. 13-42)


Evans, Sara M. Tidal Wave: How Women Changed America at Century’s End. NY: Free Press, 2003.

Lewis, Carolyn V. “Are Women for Women? Feminist and Traditional Values in the Female Electorate,” Women & Politics 20 (1, 1999): 1-28.

Morgan, Robin, ed. Sisterhood is Forever: The Women’s Anthology for a New Millennium. NY: Washington Square Press, 2003.

Rosen, Ruth. The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. NY: Viking, 2000.

Roth, Benita. Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana, and White Feminist Movements in America’s Second Wave. NY: Cambridge UP, 2004.


Sept. 21                  Movement into Action.

Baer, Denise L. “Women, Women’s Organizations, and Political Parties,” in Women and American Politics, pp. 111-45.

Boles, Janet K. “Local Feminist Policy Networks in the Contemporary Interest Group System,” Policy Sciences 27 (1994): 161-78.

Day, Christine L. and Charles D. Hadley. “Who Contributes? Similarities and Differences Between Contributors to EMILY’s List and WISH List,” Women & Politics 24 (2, 2002): 53-67.

Disney, Jennifer Leight and Joyce Gelb. “Feminist Organizational ‘Success’: The State of U.S. Women’s Movement Organizations in the 1990s,” Women & Politics 21 (4, 2000): 39-76.

Francia, Peter J. “Early Fundraising by Nonincumbent Female Congressional Candidates: The Importance of Women’s PACs,” Women & Politics 23 (1/2, 2001): 7-20.

Katzenstein, Mary Fainsod. “Feminism Within American Institutions: Unobtrusive Mobilization in the 1980s,” Signs 16 (1990): 27-54.

Skocpol, Theda, et al. “Women’s Associations and the Enactment of Mothers’ Pensions in the United States,” American Political Science Review 87 (September 1993): 686-701.

Case Study: “The Power to Choose”


Barakso, Maryann. Governing NOW: Grassroots Activism in the National Organization for Women. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2004.

Day, Christine and Charles Hadley. Women’s PACS: Abortion and Elections. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2004.

Freeman, Jo. A Room at a Time: How Women Entered Party Politics. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.

Naples, Nancy, ed. Community Activism and Feminist Politics. NY: Routledge, 1998.

Sanbonmatsu, Kira. Democrats, Republicans, and the Politics of Women’s Place. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2002.

Wollbrecht, Christina. The Politics of Women’s Rights: Parties, Positions, and Change. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2000.


Sept. 28                  Women in State and Local Elected Office.

Carroll, Introduction and pp. 3-86, 149-204, 225-42.

Reingold, Beth. Representing Women. Chapel Hill: U of NC P, 2000. (Chapters 8 & 9, pp. 215-53)



Thomas, Sue. How Women Legislate. NY: Oxford UP, 1994.

Thomas, Sue and Clyde Wilcox, eds. Women and Elective Office. NY: Oxford UP, 1998.


Oct. 5                      Women in Congress.

Swers (all)

Carroll, pp. 89-116.

Duerst-Lahti, Georgia. “Knowing Congress as a Gendered Institution: Manliness and the Implications of Women in Congress,” in Women Transforming Congress, ed. Cindy Simon Rosenthal, pp. 20-49. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 2002.


Dodson, Debra. The Impact of Women in Congress. NY: Oxford UP, 2005.

Evans, Jocelyn Jones. Women, Partisanship, and the Congress. NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005.

Gertzog, Irwin N. Women and Power on Capitol Hill: Reconstructing the Congressional Women’s Caucus. Boulder, CO.: Lynne Rienner, 2004.

Seminar paper topic due; have at least one conference with instructor by October 26.


Oct. 12                    Women in Judicial and Appointed Office—and the U.S. Presidency.


Carroll, pp. 117-48, 205-24.

Borelli, MaryAnne. The President’s Cabinet: Gender, Power, and Representation. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2002. (Chapter 2, pp. 41-89).

Mezey, Susan Gluck. “Gender and the Federal Judiciary,” in Gender and American Politics, rev. and expanded 2nd ed., ed. Sue Tolleson-Rinehart and Jyl J. Josephson, pp. 221-41. NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2005.

Watson, Robert P. and Ann Gordon, eds. Anticipating Madam President. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2003. (Chapters 1 & 15, pp. 1-17, 163-75)


Clift, Eleanor and Tom Brazaitis, Madam President: Women Blazing the Leadership Trail. NY: Routledge, 2003.

Duerst-Lahti, Georgia. “Reconceiving Theories of Power: Consequences of Masculinism in the Executive Branch,” in The Other Elites: Women, Politics, and Power in the Executive Branch, ed. MaryAnne Borelli and Janet M. Martin, pp. 11-32. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1997.

Kenski, Kate and Erika Falk, “Of What is That Glass Ceiling Made? A Study of the Attitudes About Women and the Oval Office,” Women & Politics 26 (2, 2004): 57-81.

Lawless, Jennifer, “Women, War and Winning Elections: Gender Stereotyping in the Post-September 11th Era,” Political Research Quarterly 57 (3, 2004): 479-91.

Martin, Janet. The Presidency and Women. College Station: Texas A & M UP, 2003.

Norton, Noelle and Barbara Morris, “Feminist Organizational Structure in the White House: The Office of Women’s Initiatives and Outreach,” Political Research Quarterly 56 (4, 2003): 477-87.

Pick up mid-term take-home exam questions.


Oct. 19                    The Study of Women and Public Policy.

Mazur, “Preface and Acknowledgements,” pp. 1-46.

McBride-Stetson, Chapters 1 & 3.

Kendrigan, Mary Lou. Gender Differences: Their Impact on Public Policy. NY: Greenwood, 1991. (pp. 1-8, 221-33)

Kenney, Sally J. “Where Are the Women in Public Policy Cases?” Women’s Policy Journal of Harvard 1 (2001): 87-98.

Kenney, Sally J. “Where is Gender in Agenda Setting?” Women & Politics 25 (1/2, 2003): 179-207.

Rhode, Deborah L. “The Politics of Paradigms: Gender Difference and Gender Advantage,” in Beyond Equality and Difference, ed. Gisela Bock and Susan James, 149-63. New York: Routledge, 1992.


Conway, M. Margaret et al. Women and Public Policy: A  Revolution in Progress. 3rd ed. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2005.

Mezey, Susan Gluck. Elusive Equality: Women’s Rights, Public Policy, and the Law. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2003.

Mid-term take-home exam is due.


Oct. 26                    Legal and Educational Equity.

Mazur, Chapters 3 & 4

McBride-Stetson, Chapters 2 & 5

One additional reading*


Nov. 2                    Equal Employment Opportunity and Pay Equity.

Mazur, Chapter 5

McBride-Stetson, Chapters 7 & 11

One additional reading*

Seminar paper prospectus and bibliography is due.


Nov. 9                    Family Law and the Work/Family Conflict.

Mazur, Chapters 6 & 7

McBride-Stetson, Chapters 6 & 8

One additional reading*


Nov. 16                  Reproductive Freedom.

Mazur, Chapter 8

McBride-Stetson, Chapter 4

Case Study: “Fighting for Access to Midwifery Care and Home Birth”

One additional reading*


Nov. 30                  Sexuality and Violence Against Women.

Mazur, Chapter 9

McBride-Stetson, Chapters 9 & 10

Case Study: “Institutionalized Violence”

Interview paper is due (with oral report).


Dec. 7                     Concluding Session.

Mazur, Chapter 10

Seminar papers are orally presented to the class and submitted for grading.

Pick up the take-home final exam questions.


Dec. 14                   The take-home final exam is due by 4:00 p.m. (in my office).

*the additional reading: The Mazur and McBride-Stetson texts are current and fact-filled, but they are also broad surveys. To add texture to the class discussion, each class member will locate, read, and report on  (and abstract) one scholarly journal article (or part of a book) on the day’s topic on alternate weeks. The class will be divided into two groups on the basis of last name. You may read something cited in Mazur or McBride-Stetson. Or you can draw upon PAIS International or any of the other databases accessible through the MUL on-line catalog to locate an appropriate article. MUL has 155 women’s studies journals on-line (e.g., Violence Against Women) as well as 591 political science journals.

The Interview Paper

The purpose of the interview paper is to allow you to personally interact with at least one woman who is active in local, state, or national politics around policies of interest to women. The woman to be interviewed may be a political officeholder (elected or appointed), a community leader, a government employee within a bureaucracy administering services targeted to women or their families, or an interest group leader. If you are unsure whether your interviewee is appropriate, please check with me. (You will not be evaluated on “who” you interview; Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, or 9to5’s former national director Ellen Bravo would obviously be very interesting choices but a less-visible activist is an equally rewarding subject.)

You may wish to consult the directory compiled by the Wisconsin Women’s Council, Wisconsin Women’s Resources, 2001 (MUL Reference HQ 1101 .D37 2001). This resource lists many women’s groups in the local area.

I would suggest that you read these articles (on reserve): Ann Oakley, “Interviewing Women: A Contradiction in Terms,” in Doing Feminist Research, ed. Helen Roberts, pp. 30-61. Boston: Routledge, 1981; Jane Ribbens, “Interviewing—an ‘Unnatural’ Situation?” Women’s Studies International Forum 12 (6, 1989): 579-92.

I have placed on reserve a photocopy of the interview guides that I used in my study of feminist policy-making in Milwaukee. These questions would have to be adapted and are only suggestions. Feel free to design your own questions. In any case, you should prepare a list of questions before you conduct the interview. Of course, you may add some questions during the interview if time permits. You should attach a list of your questions to your paper.

You may want to use a tape recorder to record the interview. This will make the interview easier and faster since you will not have to take detailed notes. You can capture exactly what was said and the emotions underlying the words. Be sure to ask permission to tape the interview and tell your interviewee that the information will not be published. (Strictly speaking, it is not confidential in that you will be divulging the identity of your respondent to me and to the class in discussion.)

Request a 30-minute interview but be prepared to stay and talk longer. A face-to-face interview is preferable but, if this is not possible, you may conduct your interview over the phone.

The interview paper should be an analysis of the interview, written from the perspective of the scholarly materials on women and public policy that we have read for this course. You should summarize and analyze what you learned from the entire interview in a narrative style, rather than a question-by-question report. Although you have interviewed only one woman about her experiences and ideas, and therefore the information may only be applicable to her own situation (i.e. non-generalizable), qualitative elite interviews do provide insights into the policy process not available through quantitative methods.

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