Gender Roles in American Life

A Documentary History of Political, Social, and Economic Changes

by Constance L. Shehan, Editor


As gender roles continue to change and evolve in response to complex cultural and economic factors, some Americans regard these developments as beneficial to both men and women, while others see the blurring of traditional gender lines as an existential threat to society.

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April 2018


Pages 608
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics Current Events and Issues/Gender
  American History/Culture

This two-volume set examines how the evolution of gender roles in the United States has changed family dynamics, business practices, and our concepts of womanhood and manhood as well as affected debates about equality, political and military service, and childrearing roles and practices.

In the centuries that have passed since colonial America was first established, gender roles in American society have undergone massive transformations, with impacts that have been felt in every aspect of our culture. This evolution in gender roles has affected society in practically every conceivable manner, from family dynamics, the economy, and entertainment to business practices, how politics and military training are conducted, and childrearing roles and practices. In some places, it has sparked a tremendous backlash among Americans who see traditional gender roles as one of the country's foundational pillars.

This set surveys all of these issues, making use of a wide assortment of primary documents to help readers understand the individuals, events, and ideas responsible for these changes in how American men, boys, women, and girls live, work, play, and relate to one another. These documents include speeches, testimony, and manifestos issued by prominent activists and commentators; recorded remarks of U.S. presidents and members of Congress; newspaper editorials, poems, short stories, and personal letters written by generations of American men and women; and passages from key Supreme Court decisions and legislation that have influenced gender roles—or were the result of evolving ideas regarding gender.

Readers will also be able to consider first-hand the experiences of women and men who have been on the front lines of these changes, from stay-at-home dads to women in the military; government reports; and memoirs, essays, and other commentaries featuring different ideological perspectives on where men and women stand in American society in the 21st century.


  • Addresses an important, high-interest topic for students as well as general audiences: how and why gender roles have evolved dramatically in American culture
  • Presents essential and illuminating primary documents from multiple perspectives—mal and female, conservative and progressive, historical and current
  • Includes original headnotes and essays that provide essential context for a more complete understanding of documents and events
Author Info

Constance L. Shehan is professor of sociology and women's studies at the University of Florida. Highlights of her publishing history include serving as editor-in-chief of the five-volume Encyclopedia of Family Studies, the Family Issues Reader, Gendering the Body, and Marriage and Families: A Statistical Update.



"The primary source documents are the set's most valuable feature. Anyone interested in women's studies and the development of the women's rights movement as viewed through historical documents will find this set appealing."Library Journal

"This skillfully curated work will engage and foster thoughtful discussion among students of historical, cultural, and gender studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduates."Choice

"Arguments are sound, fairly worded, and accessible to the high school level. Recommended for public and high school libraries."Booklist

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