Gender Roles in American Life
A Documentary History of Political, Social, and Economic Changes [2 volumes]
by Constance L. Shehan, Editor
April 2018, 608pp, 7x10
2 volumes, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5958-8
$208, £160, 181€, A285
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5959-5
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Some Americans regard new changes and developments in gender roles as beneficial to both men and women, while others see the blurring of traditional lines as an existential threat to society.

This two-volume set examines how the evolution of gender roles in the United States has changed family dynamics, business practices, concepts of womanhood and manhood, and 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
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, June 15, 2018

"This skillfully curated work will engage and foster thoughtful discussion among students of historical, cultural, and gender studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduates."—Choice, October 1, 2018

"Arguments are sound, fairly worded, and accessible to the high school level. Recommended for public and high school libraries."—Booklist, October 8, 2018

"Students looking for an overview of the history of men and women in America and how their roles have evolved over time will find it in this comprehensive two-volume set. . . . For high school students researching gender roles, American history, or politics, this set offers an excellent selection of primary source material. The range of documents from 1775 to 2017 will be invaluable for students investigating current attitudes and especially historical ones. . . . Highly recommended."—School Library Connection, November 1, 2018

2018 Top Community College Resource—Choice, 00/00/00
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