POLS 373  Women and Politics

Department of Political Science

Northern Illinois University


Instructor: Alisa Von Hagel, Office: 476 DuSable Hall; Email: avonhagel@yahoo.com

Office Hours: Tuesday 1-2, Wednesday 10-12, and by appointment

Class Location and Time: DuSable, Room 461; Tuesday/Thursday: 2-3:15


Course Overview:  Today, women constitute 15% of all members of parliaments around the world.  In the United States, women hold 18% of seats in Congress, marking the nation as 85th in its level of representation for women.  Why have women not yet reached gender parity in elected office?  Should women be represented as women?  What does this gender inequality mean for representational democracy in the United States?  These and other questions will be explored throughout the course, with special attention to the historical exclusion of women from the public arena, the methods used by women to enter into this arena, and the current political status of women in the United States.


Course Objectives:  By the end of the semester, students should be able to:

                *Demonstrate knowledge of the past impediments to representation and participation of


                *Discuss the different policy priorities of men and women, as public officials and political


                *Recognize the differences among women, both within the United States and globally.

                *Delineate prospective strategies for increasing women’s political participation and

                   representation in the United States.


Required books:

1. Ford, Lynne. Women and Politics: The Pursuit of Equality. 2nd edition.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

2. Carroll, Susan and Richard L. Fox, editors. 2006, Gender and Elections: Shaping the Future of American

     Politics.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

3. Reingold, Beth, editor. Legislative Women: Getting Elected, Getting Ahead.  Boulder: Lynne Rienner,



These books are available at the campus book store and are also available at various online sources.  Additional handouts and required readings listed below may be accessed via web addresses, or Blackboard.  It is your responsibility to read these articles before attending class.


Grading Procedures:
A. There will be three exams, each worth 20% of your final grade.  The tests will be based on the readings from the textbooks, readings posted on Blackboard and the material from class lectures. NO MAKE-UP EXAMS WILL BE GIVEN, except in case of emergency and then only at the discretion of the instructor (contact the instructor before the exam!).  If there are problems or conflicts, contact the instructor well in advance of the exam.  The final exam will not be cumulative, however students may be required to draw on material from the first half of the course in a general way.


B. Each student will be required to complete a research paper on a public policy issue which specifically pertains to women.  The Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues has created numerous taskforces outlining major policy areas of primary importance for women.  A list of the Taskforce Initiatives will be posted on Blackboard, and may provide a starting point for finding a paper topic.  Examples of potential topics include (but are not limited to) economic legislation (Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act), reproductive policy (contraception access, regulation of abortion, biomedical regulation) and issues concerning women in the military (repeal of the risk rule).  Specifically, how did the particular issue identified make its way to the Congressional Agenda?  What is the problem that is being addressed by the particular legislation chosen?  How have women in Congress argued for or against the legislation, and did they approach the issue from a different perspective than male members of Congress? 


The final paper should be a minimum of 8 pages, double-spaced and not exceed 12 pages.  Your grade will be determined by your ability to compose a well-written, legible, grammatically correct research paper.  The paper will be evaluated according to the quality (support for the thesis, spelling, grammar, sentence structure, organization) of the information presented.  A full description of the expectations for the paper will be discussed during the second week of class.  A Paper Proposal and Annotated Bibliography will be required, which will consist of an abstract including a paper topic and thesis, and an annotated bibliography.  The annotated bibliography should list at least 5 academic sources with a short description of the source and its relevance to your final paper.  This assignment is 15% of the final paper grade, and MUST be handed in order to receive a grade for your final paper.  Late assignments will be docked one letter grade for every day late.  The final paper is due in class on April 23; one half of a letter grade will be deducted for each day late.


Failure to complete any of the assignments outlined above will result in an automatic failure of the course.


C. Class participation is expected and required. Students are to do the assigned readings before the relevant class period and to come to class prepared to discuss them.  Class will be conducted with the assumption that students have done the reading and been to previous sessions. 

The class format will consist of lectures and discussions.  Students will have ample opportunity to participate in making the course interesting and relevant, including discussions in response to the postings on Blackboard.  Students' comments and questions on readings, lectures, and current events are welcome and encouraged.  For this format to work students need to come to class and come to class prepared.  This portion of your grade is designed to reward students who do that.

Every week, I will post articles on a discussion forum created on Blackboard.  Students are expected to read and discuss said posted articles on the forum, either responding to the article, or to other student’s posts.  The class participation grade consists of two components, attendance and in-class performance (10%) and participation on Blackboard’s discussion forum (5%).  The grade will be based on both quality and quantity of participation: weekly posts are expected on the discussion forum, in addition to weekly participation in class.


Exam I: 20%

Exam II: 20%

Exam III: 20%

Research Paper: 25%

                Components of the Research Paper:

                Paper Proposal and Annotated Bibliography (Due 02/12): 15% of paper grade

                Final Paper (Due 04/23): 85% of paper grade

Class Participation: 15%



Grading Scale:

                A = 100%-90%                    D = 69%-60%

                B = 89%-80%                      F = 59% and below

                C = 79%-70%


Proposed Class Schedule:

Week 1                 Course Introduction and Feminism

01/13 & 01/15                    Ford: Ch. 1

                                                Freeman, Jo. “The Social Construction of the Second Sex.”
                                                Found at: <http://www.jofreeman.com/womensociety/socconstruct.htm>


Week 2                 Women’s Rights Movement: Women and Representation

01/20                                     Ford: Ch. 2

                                               Parkman, Francis. “Some Reasons against Women’s Suffrage.” (Blackboard)


01/22                                   Freeman, Jo. “Social Revolution and the Equal Rights Amendment.”  Found at:



Week 3                 Political Participation & Public Opinion

01/27                                     Ford: Ch. 3

CAWP, “The Gender Gap: Attitudes on Public Policy.”  Found at: <http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/fast_facts/voters/documents/ggapissues.pdf>


01/29                                     Carroll and Fox: Ch. 2-3


Week 4                 Women Candidates and Campaigns

02/03                                     Ford: Ch. 4, pp. 110-123; Carroll and Fox: Ch. 4


02/05                                     Carroll and Fox: Ch. 7


Week 5                 Women Candidates and Campaigns, cont.

02/10                                     Ford: Ch. 4, pp. 123-148; Carroll and Fox: Ch. 8


02/12                                     Reingold: Ch. 3


Week 6                 Descriptive Representation: Women as Elected Officials

02/17                                     Ford: Ch. 5


02/19                                     Reingold: Ch. 5-6


Week 7                

02/24                  **EXAM I** (Weeks 1-6)


                             Women and Presidential Politics

02/26                                 Carroll and Fox: Ch. 1

                                            Freeman, Jo.  “Mrs. Smith Runs for President.”  Found at:



Week 8                 Women and the Political Parties

03/03 & 03/05                    Reingold: Ch. 2, 8, 11




Week 10              Public Policy: Education Equity

03/17 & 03/19                    Ford: Ch. 6


Week 11              Family & Reproduction Issues

03/24                                     Ford: Ch. 8


03/26                                     Dodson, Debra. “Representing Women’s Interests.” (Blackboard)

                                                Week 11 Collection of Media Articles (Blackboard)


Week 12              Economic Equity: Work, Pay & Family Issues

03/31                                     Ford: Ch. 7; Reingold: Ch. 7


04/02                     **EXAM: II** (Weeks 7-12)


Week 13              Women’s Community Activism

04/07 & 04/09                    Carroll and Fox: Ch. 5; Mother Jones’ Readings (Blackboard)


Week 14              Gender and Race: Intersectionality in U.S. Politics

04/14 & 04/16                    Reingold: Ch. 9-10


Week 15              International Women’s Rights

04/21                                     Dahlerup, Drude. “Quotas are Changing the History of Women.” (Blackboard)

                                                Young, Lisa. “Gender Equal Legislatures.” (Blackboard)

                                                Week 15 Collection of Media Articles (Blackboard)


04/23                     Guest Lecture by Andrea Messing-Mathie

                 **April 23: Papers Due**


Week 16              Course Wrap-up & Review

04/28 & 04/30                    Reingold: Ch. 12


FINAL EXAM:  Tues. May 5, 2-3:50


**Our class will have the pleasure of a visit by Congresswoman Melissa Bean at some point in the semester.  In order to accommodate her visit to campus, the above class schedule may be revised at a later date.  I will inform the class of any changes to the schedule as soon as Congresswoman Bean’s visit is confirmed.   

Students with Disabilities: NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 regarding provision of reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. Moreover, your academic success is of importance to me. If you have a disability that may have a negative impact on your performance in this course and you may require some type of instructional and/or examination accommodation, please contact me early in the semester so that I can provide or facilitate in providing accommodations you may need.  If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR), the designated office on campus to provide services and administer exams with accommodations for students with disabilities. CAAR is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building (753-1303). I look forward to talking with you to learn how I may be helpful in enhancing your academic success in this course.

Academic Honesty and Plagiarism: No paper (or other written assignment or exam) submitted for another course or written by another person will be accepted.  Plagiarism - presenting the thoughts or words of others as if they were your own - will not be tolerated.  You must credit all of the sources from which you obtain data, information, ideas, or language with a full and accurate citation (and quotation marks, when appropriate).  Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty can result in an automatic "F" for the course and even expulsion from the University (see the Student Judicial Code). Criteria for these offenses are described in the Student Judicial Code and the Undergraduate Catalog. 

Undergraduate Writing Awards: The department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies. Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing. Winners are expected to attend the Department's spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50. Papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year's competition even if the student has graduated.

Website: Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science website 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://www.polisci.niu.edu/index.html