rusq: Vol. 52 Issue 2: p. 171
Sources: Women in American Politics: History and Milestones
Sally Moffitt

Reference Librarian and Bibliographer for Anthropology, History, Philosophy, Political Science; Africana, Asian, Judaic, Latin American, and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies; Cohen Enrichment Collection, Langsam Library, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

Doris Weatherford’s latest compilation chronicles the political history of American women in nineteen thematic chapters beginning with the suffrage movement’s achievement of the franchise and ending with a state-by state overview that draws on her previous 4-volume A History of Women in the United States: A State-By-State Reference (Grolier Academic Reference, 2004). In between, chapters cover statewide elective officeholders, state legislators, congressional legislators, state governors and lieutenant governors, city mayors, presidential and vice presidential candidates, cabinet and subcabinet officers, ambassadors, the judiciary, political parties and conventions, interest groups, and PACs.

Each chapter presents a chronologically arranged historical overview of the subject at hand, tabulations such as Table 9.1 “First Female Mayors of Cities with More Than 150,000 Residents, by Year” (238) and Table 14.1 “First Women on State Supreme Courts, by State,”(360), selective biographical profiles of representative women, and a brief listing of references and suggestions for further reading. Black and white photographs illustrate some of the entries. Indexes to names and to subjects are in the back of each of the two volumes.

The numerous tabulations in Women in American Politics are especially useful and would be more so had the author listed the sources from which she drew these tallies. With few exceptions (see for example tables 5.3 “Total Number of Women Elected to State Senates, through 1960s, by Decade and State” [122] and 12.2 “Female Ambassadors, Both Political Appointees and Career Diplomats, 1933 to 1993 [323]), Weatherford covers the data in her tables with the general source note “Compiled by author.”

Among recent reference works the one-volume Encyclopedia of Women and American Politics edited by Lynne E. Ford (Facts on File, 2008) emphasizes the conjunction in its title. Some 500 signed essays by 51 contributors address the interplay of women and the American political system through articles such as reproductive rights, the wage gap, and similar social and political issues that have affected women disproportionately, though it too gives extensive coverage to individual women officeholders. The work also includes a series of statistical and chronological appendixes, as well as the text of 21 primary source documents, this latter feature not present in Weatherford’s work except in the occasional excerpt inserted in the form of a sidebar.

Suzanne O’Dea’s updated two-volume From Suffrage to the Senate: America’s Political Women: an Encyclopedia of Leaders, Causes, and Issues (Grey House Publishing, 2006; first edition ABC-CLIO, 1999) remains a chiefly biographical work whose subjects reflect a broader definition of political involvement including, for example, journalists, feminists, social activists, and the like, though the bulk of the biographies remain women officeholders. Like Ford’s encyclopedia, O’Dea’s work includes some topical articles not the subject of Weatherford’s focus, bona fide occupational qualification for example. O’Dea’s work covers close to 300 court cases affecting the lives of American women. Though court cases figure in Weatherford’s text too, a more modest number are covered, not as separate articles but within the larger context of an overview or biographical entry to which the case relates. O’Dea’s work also includes a substantial appendix of primary source documents and another on facts and statistics, the latter heavily dependent on the work of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, cited by O’Dea as Center for the American Woman and Politics.

Much of the information in these three reference works on women in American politics can be found elsewhere, particularly biographical information about women of national prominence. Weatherford’s entry into the field offers a compilation of women officeholders at the city, state, and national levels conveniently assembled into a two-volume work that anchors these women in the historical context and circumstances in which they gained their political positions while providing extensive supplementary tables and charts that demonstrate American women’s political progress. Women in American Politics: History and Milestones is recommended for high school, public, and two-year college library collections. College and University libraries may consider adding this title to serve their undergraduate population.

Article Categories:
  • Library Reference and User Services
    • Sources


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ALA Privacy Policy

© 2021 RUSA