POLS 373  Women and Politics


Instructor:        Dr. Barbara Burrell

                         Room 164 SSRI (William Minot Building)

                         148 No. 3rd Street

                         753-9657   bburrell@niu.edu


Office Hours   416 Zulauf Hall, 753-7050

                        Tues:  2-3 PM;  Weds:  1-4 PM (February 9, March 9, April 13 from 3-5 PM)


Two required textbooks are available for purchase at the university bookstore.

1.  M. Margaret Conway, Gertrude A. Steuenagel and David W. Ahern, Women  and Political Participation: Culture Change in the Political Arena, 2nd edition, CQ Press, 2005

2  M. Margaret Conway, Gertrude A. Steuenagel and David W. Ahern, Women and Public Policy: A Revolution in Progress 3rd edition, CQ Press, 2005        


The Status of Women in Your County: A Community Research Tool, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (available on electronic reserve)


Course Questions and Goals:


In the context of thinking about women and politics, we will address the following overarching questions:


What do we mean by politics, political behavior and political equality?

How have women acted politically and attempted to achieve political equality?

In the early years of the 21st century to what extent have women achieved political equality and how important is gender as a political issue?

What does gender have to do with policy making today?


Beyond substantive knowledge about women and politics, we will also learn about American politics broadly defined, about women in comparative electoral politics and about using research methodologies to study women’s status.

Enrollment on Blackboard


Students are expected to create accounts on the Blackboard system (http://webcourses.niu.edu) as soon as possible. I will be using this site to post grades, Powerpoint presentations, notes, outlines, review questions, polls, and other materials relevant to the class. Go to the website above, create an account (using our “Z” number as your account login only, other accounts without the Z number will be removed periodically), click on the green “courses” tab, click “Browse Course Catalog,” and then search for “POLS. Then click “enroll” for this class (pols373_001_SP05). It is quite simple. Each time you enter Blackboard you will have a link to this class.



Class Schedule


Week 1

January 18   Introduction

January 20   The First Women's Rights Movement

Readings:  Women & Political Participation, chap 1

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "Pioneer Life in Kansas—Our Newspaper "The Revolution," Chap XVI   in Eighty Years and More (electronic reserve)


Week 2, January 25, 27    The Second Women's Rights Movement

Readings:  Women & Political Participation, chap 2


Tues Jan 25th  From “The Status of Women in Your County: A Community Research Tool’ answer questions 1, 2, and 3 for the county or city assigned to you using Factfinder.census.gov.


Thurs. Jan 27th-  Find a women's rights organization or an anti-feminist organization on the web and answer the following questions:

1. What is the mission or organizational goals of this group?

2. How is it organized, that is, does it have local chapters, only a national membership, how does one join the organization and who are its leaders?

3. What activities is it engaged in and what issues is it most concerned with at this time?    

Turn in a 1-2 page report on this organization in which you answer these questions and include any other important information about the group that informs us about its purpose, goals, and strategies.  INCLUDE A COPY OF ITS HOME PAGE IN YOUR REPORT.  Be prepared to discuss your group with the class.    Grade: 5 points

Week 3 (Feb1-3)

Feb. 1:   Third Wave Feminism

Readings:  Chapters 2 and 8 in Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards  Manifesta, 2000 (electronic reserve)


Feb. 3  Gender, Public Opinion and Voting

Readings:  Women & Political Participation, chaps 3, 5

Melissa Levitt and Katherine C. Naff. “Gender as a Political Constant,” in The Election of the Century, Stephen J. Wayne and Clyde Wilcox, eds. (electronic reserve)                 


Week 4 (February  8-10)
Feb. 8:   Continue Gender, Public Opinion and Voting


February 10, Exam 1


Feb. 10:   Differences Among Women

Readings:  Women & Political Participation, chap. 4

 “How did Feminism get to be “All White”? A conversation between Jan Mansbridge and Barbara Smith, America Prospect, v 11, no. 9 p. 32-6, March 13, 2000  Available on WilsonSelect Plus (OCLC database)

Jewel Prestage, “In Quest of African American Political Woman,” in Different Roles, Different Voices, Marianne Githens and Pippa Norris, eds.  (electronic reserve)


Week 5, February 15, 17   Empowering Women in their Communities

Readings:    Nawal H. Ammar and Leila S. Lababidy, “Women’s Grassroots Movements and Democratization in Egypt, Elizabeth Cagan, “Women and Grassroots Democracy in El Salvador: The Case of Comunidad Segundo Montes, Nelda K. Pearson, “Empowerment and Disempowerment of Women in Central Appalachia, U.S.A.” in Democratization and Women’s Grassroots Movements, Jill Bystydzienski and Joti Sekhon, Indiana University Press, 1999.   (electronic reserve)


Week 6, February 22, 24   Women’s Campaigns for Public Office

Readings:  Women & Political Participation, chap 6

Sue Thomas, “Women in the 107th Congress,” in The Election of the Century, Stephen J. Wayne and Clyde Wilcox, eds. (electronic reserve)             

Elizabeth Cox, “Introduction” Women State and Territorial Legislators, 1895-1995, McFarland, 1996 (electronic reserve)


Week 7, March 1, 3: Women Candidates and the Structure of Elections, Comparative Perspective

Readings:   Women in Parliament: Beyond the Numbers, chapter 3,  Richard Matland, “Enhancing Women’s Participation: Legislative Recruitment and Electoral Systems and Chapter 4,  Drude Dahlerup, “Using Quotas to Increase Women’s Political Representation”  (available at http://www.idea.int/women/parl/ch3a.htm


Week 8, March 8, 10 Women in the Executive Branch and the Judiciary


Assignment, March 8:  Find a notable woman in American politics today, perhaps a U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, a Governor and write a 1-2 page summary describing her political history, her political persona and her policy initiatives.   Grade:  5 points


March 10   Exam 2


Week 9, March 22, 24   Women and Public Office: Do They Make a Difference?

Readings:  Christina Wolbrecht, “Female Legislators and the Women’s Rights Agenda,” in Women Transforming Congress, Cindy Simon Rosenthal, ed. (electronic reserve)

Mary Hawkesworth, “Congressional Enactments of Race-Gender: Toward a Theory of Raced-Gendered Institutions” American Political Science Review 97, No. 4, November 2003, 529-550 (electronic reserve)


Week 10 , March 29, 31)

March 29:  Presidential Wives

Reading:  Barbara Burrell, Public Opinion, the First Ladyship and Hillary Rodham Clinton, revised edition, Chapters 5 and 8, (electronic reserve)




March 31:   A Woman for President?

Readings:  Chapters 1 (Robert P. Watson, “The White House as Ultimate Prize,  12 (Carole Kennedy, “Is the United States Ready  for a Woman President”) 15 (Lori Cox Han, “Presidential Leadership: Governance from a Woman’s Perspective”) in Anticipating Madam President (electronic reserve)


Week 11, April 5, 7     Women and the Law

Readings:  Women and Public Policy, chapters 7, 9


April 7:     Exam 3


Week 12, April 12, 14   Women and Public Policy

Readings:  Women & Public Policy, chaps 1-6, 8


Week 13, April 19, 21   Presentations on Status of Women in Illinois Counties


Week 14, April 26, 28   Feminism around the World

Assignment:   Find a news article about some aspect of political activism regarding women’s rights from another country or part of the world.  Write a one-two paragraph summary of the this activity with an emphasis on how it relates to or is different from the material we have covered on women in American politics, include a copy of the article as part of your assignment. Be prepared to share your article with the class.  Grade: 5 points 


Week 15, May 3 -5   Women in the Military


May 3 – Exam  4


Course Assignments


Research Project 1:     The Status of Women in Illinois Counties


The Institute for Women's Policy Research has initiated a project, the Status of Women in the States. They have also constructed "The Status of Women in Your County: A Community Research Tool."   We will use that tool to analyze the status of women in Illinois counties. We will also develop our own measures as well as engage in interviews with women leaders in these counties. "The Status of Women in Your County:  A Community Research Tool" is available in the Blackboard version of this course in course documents.    


The project will involve:


1. completing the exercises in the Research Tool that are available for Illinois counties

2. exploring other data sources for Illinois counties

3. interviewing women leaders in the counties and other officials as informants about the status of women in these counties

4. compile all of the data for each of the counties into a research report and rate your county on each of the indicators of women's status.

5. present the results in class

6. Our goal will be to have comparative documents across the counties that can be presented to county officials and state officials.

7 consider the policy implications of the result of our study


Most likely I will have students work in pairs to analyze the status of women in a county. You will have to keep track of each person's contribution to the project, document what assignments each person fulfills, turn in a list of all tasks each person has completed with each member of the team initializing that that person completed the task.  The final report will be turned in as a joint project, although students can be given a separate grade. If an individual wishes to write a supplementary report on his or her own for credit that can also be arranged.


Project 2. Monitoring media coverage of political, social and economic life as it particularly affects women.  Choose one or two media sources (newspapers, TV, internet sites, etc) and monitor their coverage of women each day of the semester.  Keep a journal of coverage of the media sources to which you have committed. The completed journal is due on May 5th. The journal should include a page on each relevant item that you have found. You should briefly summarize the article or news piece, describe why it is relevant and the perspective of the author or reporter. Include whether it is a straight piece of news reporting and whether there is a slant to the reporting. You must also write a few sentences about your reflection on this piece. The newspaper clipping, downloaded article, etc must be attached to each entry. Your journal should also have a short (two-three pages or more) summary of what you have learned about the social, economic and political status of women from coverage of the media. 

Starting with January 27, each Thursday, we will have a "check in time" about the information you are gathering for your media reports. Each student must report orally twice during the semester about the media coverage you have gathered in your journal as part of your journal grade. Turn in examples of your journal pages early in the course so I can be sure that you are on the right track and that there is no misunderstanding about the assignment.   

Class Attendance:  Students will receive one point for attendance each day toward their grade for a maximum of 30 points. Any students missing more than 3 classes will not receive an A in the course no matter how well that they do on written assignments.  Students are expected to attend class each class period, be on time, pay attention, participate in class, come having read the assignments for the day, and not leave early. Any student who arrives after attendance has been taken, leaves early without having obtained permission, falls asleep in class, violates any class rules regarding decorum will be considered absent from class that day and not get credit for attendance. 

Any student absence from class on any day in which a guest speaker is invited will lose 5 points from his or her attendance grade.


Do not read a newspaper or other materials in class, or chat with your classmates. If this happens, I will ask offenders to leave class and they will be marked absent for the day.


Class lasts for 75 minutes. I will be the one to end class. I will end promptly so that you can get to other classes. Do not start to pack up to leave before I have ended class. Be sure to take everything with you that you brought to class. Do not leave newspapers and food or beverage containers in class for someone else to pick up.


No cell phones are allowed in class.  I do not want to see a cell phone.  No playing of games on electronic equipment.


Do email me with questions, to set up a meeting or to provide me with information.


Do not email me to avoid having an exchange with me face-to-face. I will not engage in a discussion over exam grades in particular via email.  Do come to see me in person. I encourage you to talk with me about any problems you are having with the course.




Exams (4): Each exam is worth 25 points for a total of          100 points.

Attendance:                                                                               30 points

Status of Women Research Project:                                        100 points

News Media Journal:                                                                50 points

Women’s Movement Project:                                                      5 points

Notable Woman In American Politics Project:                           5 points

Women’s History Month Presentation:                                        5 points        

Feminism around the world presentation:                                   5 points


Total                                                                                        300 points


Total points: 300     270-300=A; 240-269=B; 210-239=C; 180-209=D; 0-179=F


Course Policies  


1. Makeup Exams: Makeup exams will only be given in extraordinary circumstances. If such circumstances arise, please contact me as soon as possible and before the scheduled exam. To keep the process fair for everyone in the course, students will be asked to support requests for makeup exams with documentation. A missed examination without prior notification and a documented excuse will result in a zero for that exam.


2. Students with Disabilities: Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


3. Late Assignments:  The 5 point assignments must be turned in in class on the assigned day. They will not be accepted late or by email.  The two major assignments must be submitted on the due date for full credit.  


5. Extra Credit: Extra credit assignments will not be given on an individual basis to raise final course grades. Like makeup exams, such projects raise serious questions of equity. If such a project is made available, every member of the class will be given the opportunity to complete it.


6. Incomplete Requests: Such petitions will be granted only in extraordinary circumstances. I reserve the right to ask for documentation to verify the problem preventing completion of the course by the normal deadlines. If the student does not present documentation from a university office or official, the matter will be left to my discretion.


7. Academic Dishonesty: Regarding plagiarism, the NIU Undergraduate Catalog states: "students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university." The above statement encompasses the purchase or use of papers that were written by others. Students must do their own work and learn the rules for proper quoting, paraphrasing, and footnoting.


8. Unannounced Quizzes: I reserve the right to conduct pop quizzes, if it becomes grossly apparent through class discussions that students are not completing the assigned readings on a regular basis. If such quizzes are administered, they will be averaged and used to raise or lower a student’s final course grade. Whether a particular student’s grade is adjusted positively or negatively will be dependent on a class average. It will not be done capriciously.


Department of Political Science Web Site: Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu