Women in the American Political System

An Encyclopedia of Women as Voters, Candidates, and Office Holders

by Dianne G. Bystrom and Barbara Burrell, Editors


Women are becoming increasingly visible and influential in American political life—both in office and collectively as voters.

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Cover image for Women in the American Political System

December 2018


Pages 722
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics Women's Studies/General

This book examines how women candidates, voters, and office holders shape U.S. political processes and institutions, lending their perspectives to gradually evolve American life and values.

This book provides an encyclopedic sourcebook on the evolution of women's involvement in American politics from the colonial era to the present, covering all of the individuals, organizations, cultural forces, political issues, and legal decisions that have collectively served to elevate the role of women at the ballot box, on the campaign trail, in Washington, and in state- and city-level political offices across the country. The in-depth essays document and examine the rising prominence of women as voters, candidates, public officials, and lawmakers, enabling readers to understand how U.S. political processes and institutions have been—and will continue to be—shaped by women and their perspectives on American life and values.

The entries cover a range of women politicians and officials; female activists and media figures; relevant organizations and interest groups, such as Emily's List, League of Women Voters, and National Right to Life; key laws, court cases, and events, such as the Nineteenth Amendment, the Equal Rights Amendment, the Seneca Falls Convention, the passage of Title IX, and Roe v. Wade; and other topics, like media coverage of appearance, women's roles as campaign strategists/fundraisers, gender differences in policy priorities, and the gender gap in political ambitions. The text is supplemented by sidebars that highlight selected landmarks in women's political history in the United States, such as the 2012 election of Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay U.S. senator.


  • Presents up-to-date encyclopedic coverage of a subject of great importance: women's progress in closing the gender gap in political power
  • Provides valuable context and illuminates specific areas of women's involvement in politics—for example, women as voters and women as local/state officeholders—in a nonpartisan way
  • Offers both historical and current primary documents on the evolution of women in politics
Author Info

Dianne G. Bystrom, PhD, has served as director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University since 1996. She is the coauthor or coeditor of 6 books and has contributed chapters to 19 books, including Praeger's Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: A Global Comparison of Women's Campaigns for Executive Office. Her research focuses on the styles and strategies used by female and male political candidates in their television advertising, websites, and speeches as well as their coverage by the media. Bystrom is a frequent commentator about political and women's issues for state, national, and international media. She received a Faculty-Staff Inspiration Award in 2015 from the Iowa State Alumni Association, the Institutional Service Award from the ISU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2014, and the Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 1999.

Barbara Burrell is professor emerita in the Political Science Department of Northern Illinois University. She also served as associate director of the Northern Illinois University Public Opinion Laboratory 1999–2007. She is author of Gender in Campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives; Public Opinion, The First Ladyship, and Hillary Clinton; and A Woman's Place Is in the House: Campaigning for Congress in the Feminist Era, plus numerous refereed journal articles, book chapters, and conference presentations. Burrell has served as president of the Women's Caucus for Political Science from 2007 to 2008 and was recipient of the Midwest Political Science Women's Caucus Outstanding Professional Achievement Award, 2011–2012.

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