American political activists and candidates have used motherhood to rally women’s interest, support, and participation throughout American history. 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.