POLS 601, Topics in American Government, Women and Politics


Tuesday, 3:30-6:10 PM                                                                       Professor Barbara Burrell

Dusable 464                                                                                        753-7050

Office Hours, Tuesday, 1-3, Wednesdays 1-3                                   bburrell@niu.edu

115  Zulauf Hall


A rich array of research on women’s participation in politics has developed over the past few decades all across the various subfields of political science. We will read and discuss some of the research on women and political life in the United States and take a comparative perspective on occasion. Our goals will be to become familiar with the variety of perspectives scholars have taken in thinking about women and politics and gender and politics, the questions they have raised and to understand different theoretical arguments and research approaches. What do we learn by looking at a political question or problem from the perspective of women’s engagement or lack of involvement in political affairs? Why study women and politics? How does the study of women and politics enhance our understanding of the political? What is gender all about?


Required Books


Kristi Andersen. 1996. After Suffrage: Women in Partisan and Electoral Politics before the New Deal. University of Chicago Press.1996

Lois Duke Whitaker, editor. Voting the Gender Gap. University of Illinois Press, 2008

Evelyn Simien. Black Feminist Voices in Politics. State University of New York Press.

Cindy Simon Rosenthal, editor. Women Transforming Congress. University of Oklahoma Press. 2002

Ronnee Schreiber, Righting Feminism, University of Oxford Press. 2008

Lee Ann Banaszak.  The U.S. Women’s Movement in Global Perspective. Rowman and Littlefield. 2005

Barbara Palmer and Dennis Simon 2008. Breaking the Glass Ceiling, 2nd edition. Routledge Publishing. 2008


Journal articles and book chapters are available either through Jstor or on Blackboard under our course.  If you are on campus, you just need to type in www.jstor.org to get to that website and download the article. If you are using a computer off campus, logon to the NIU website and go the library, go to articles, tell it that you are off campus, click on General under databases and scroll down to Jstor.




January 13 - Introduction


Part I. Women and Political Participation


January 20 -  Political Participation in the Suffrage Era

Reading: After Suffrage: Women in Partisan and Electoral Politics


January 27.  The Gender Gap in Contemporary Political Behavior

Reading: Voting the Gender Gap

Everyone will read the Introduction, conclusion and chapters 1-5; individual students will be assigned a chapter from chapters 6-9 to be assigned in class. The student will be responsible for leading the discussion on that chapter. You should be able to present the research question, describe basic concepts, present the research design and summarize findings.  1-2 page written summary required. 


 February 3. The Women’s Movement

Reading: The U.S. Women’s Movement in Global Perspective

Everyone will read the Introduction, conclusion and chapters 1-6; individual students will be assigned a chapter from chapters 7-11. The student will be responsible for leading the discussion on that chapter. You should be able to present the research question, describe basic concepts, present the research design and summarize findings.  1-2 page written summary required. 


February 10. Intersectionality

Readings: Black Feminist Voices in Politics

Mary Hawkesworth. 2003. “Congressional Enactments of Race-Gender: Toward a Theory of Raced-Gendered Institutions,” American Political Science Review 97 (November): 529-550. Jstor


February 17. Expanding Women’s Voices

Reading: Righting Feminism


Part II. Running for and Serving in Electoral Office


February 24. Women as Candidates

Readings: Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Irwin Gertzog. 2002. “Women’s Changing Pathways to the U. S. House of Representatives: Widows, Elites, and Strategic Politicians.” In Women Transforming Congress 95-118


March 3.  Women as Candidates, continued

Readings: Richard Fox and Jennifer Lawless. 2004. “Entering the Arena? Gender and the Decision to Run for Office.” American Journal of Political Science 48 (2): 264-280 Jstor

Kathy Dolan. 2006. “Symbolic Mobilization? The Impact of Candidate Sex.”  American Politics Research, 34, 6:687-704.

Christina Wolbrecht and David Campbell. 2006. “See Jane Run: Women Politicians as Role Models for Adolescents.” Journal of Politics, 68, 2:.233-247 Blackboard

Dianne Bystrom and Lynda Lee Kaid. 2002. “Are Women Candidates Transforming Campaign Communication? A Comparison of Advertising Videostyles in the 1990s” In Women Transforming Congress, 146-169.

Lorna Rae Atkeson. 2003. “Not All Cues Are Created Equal: The Conditional Impact of Female Candidates on Political Engagement.” Journal of Politics, 65: 4: 1040-1061.  Jstor


March 17. Women in Office and Representation

The first 4 readings are all in Women Transforming Congress, Chapters 8, 10, 12, 14


Christina Wolbrecht. “Female Legislators and the Women’s Rights Agenda” 170-197.

Michele Swers.  “Transforming the Agenda: Analyzing Gender Differences in Women’s Issue Bill Sponsorship.”  260-284

Noelle H. Norton. “Transforming Policy from the Inside: Participation in Committee”, 316-340

Katherine Cramer Walsh. “Enlarging Representation: Women Bringing Marginalized Perspectives to Floor Debate in the House of Representatives”  370-396


Lyn Kathlene. 1995.  Alternative Views of Crime: Legislative Policymaking in Gendered Terms” Journal of Politics 57, 3 (August): 696-723  Jstor

Jane Mansbridge. 1999. “Should Blacks Represent Blacks and Women Represent Women? A Contingent ‘Yes.’” Journal of Politics 61(August): 628-659. Jstor


March 24. Public Policy

The first 4 readings are taken from Gender and American Politics: Women, Men and the Political Process, second edition, eds. Sue Tolleson-Rinehart and Jyl Josephson M.E. Sharpe, 2005. Available on Blackboard


Janie Leatherman. “Gender and U.S. Foreign Policy: Hegemonic Masculinity, the War in Iraq, and UN-Doing of World Order”

Dorothy E. McBride. “Gendering Policy Debates: Welfare Reform, Abortion Regulation, and Trafficking”

Jyl Josephson. “Gender, social Construction, and Policies for Low-Income Men and Women”

Sue Tolleson-Rinehart. “Women Get Sicker; Men Die Quicker: Gender, Health Politics, and Health Policy”


Karen Kedrowski and Marily Stine Sarow. “The Gendering of Cancer Policy.” In Women Transforming Congress, Chapter 9, 240-259


March 31. Women and Power, Executive Leadership

Georgia Duerst Lahti, 2006. “Presidential elections: Gendered space and the Case of 2004.” In Gender and Elections, eds. Susan Carroll and Richard Fox, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. 12-42. Blackboard

Farida Jalalzai. 2008. “Women Rule: Shattering the Executive Glass Ceiling.” Politics & Gender, 4 (2)  June, 205-231

The following 4 articles are all from Politics & Gender, September 2008 available on Blackboard

Melinda Adams.  “ Liberia’s Election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Women’s Executive Leadership in Africa”, 475-485

Sarah Elise Wiliarty. “Chancellor Angela Merkel—A Sign of Hope or the Exception that Proves the Rule?”, 485-495

Anne Maria Holli. “Electoral Reform Opens Roads to presidency for Finnish Women,” 496-509

Marcela Rios Tabor. “Seizing a Window of Opportunity: The Election of President Bachelet in Chile,” 509-519

Ronald Peters and Cindy Simon Rosenthal. 2008. “Assessing Nancy Pelosi” The Forum  on Blackboard


Part III. Electoral Structures, Quotas and the Numerical Representation of Women in National Parliaments


April 7.  You may want to peruse http://idea.int for more information on the different types of electoral systems. 


Part I. Electoral Systems

Eileen McDonagh. 2002. “Political Citizenship and Democratization: The Gender Paradox.” American Political Science Review 96, 3 (September) 553-564. Jstor

Wilma Rule. 1987. “Electoral Systems, Contextual Factors and Women’s Opportunity for Election to Parliament in Twenty-Three Democracies.” Western Political Quarterly 34: 60-77. Jstor

 Richard Matland. 1998. “Women’s Representation in National Legislatures: Developed and Developing Countries.” Legislative Studies Quarterly, 23, 1 (February): 109-125. Jstor

Joyce Gelb. “Representing Women in Britain and the United States,” Chapter 16 in Women Transforming Congress, 422-444.

Susan Carroll and Krista Jenkins. 2001Unrealized Opportunity? Term Limits and the Representation of Women in State Legislatures,” Women & Politics 23:4: 1-30 Blackboard


April 14. Part II.  Quotas

Readings:  In Women, Quotas and Politics, Ed. Drude Dahlerup. 2006 New York: Routledge (all in Blackboard)

1.      Carol Bacchi. 2006. “Arguing for and against Quotas, 32-51.

2.      Aili Tripp, Dior Konate and Colleen Lowe-Morna. 2006. “Sub-Saharan Africa: on the Fast Track to Women’s Political Representation, 112-137.

3.      Lenita Freidenvall, Drude Bahlerup and Hege Skjeie. “the Nordic Countries” an Incremental Model” 55-82

Susan Franceschet and Jennifer Piscopo. 2008. “Gender Quotas and Women’s Substantive Representation: Lessons from Argentina.” Politics & Gender, (4) 393-425

Pippa Norris. 2007. “Women Leaders and Constitution Building in Iraq and Afghanistan” In Women Who Lead Ed. Barbara Kellerman. New York: Jossey Bass. Pp.197-226.  Blackboard


April 21: Student Papers: Informal presentations and discussion of findings


April 28. Studying American Politics from a Feminist Perspective

Readings: to be assigned




1. Weekly Papers (20%  of course grade)

Students will be required to write 8 1-2 page reaction papers that respond to the readings for that week. These papers should be emailed to me and posted on the Discussion Board of Blackboard so that other members of the class will be able to read and reflect on them by noon on Monday. These papers should center on reflection of the readings. They are not to be summaries of the readings but ideas and critiques that you have developed from your reflection on the material. You should set up questions for class discussion. What do these readings make you think about?  My evaluation will focus on the number and quality of original ideas that you bring to a particular week’s readings. See reaction paper Dos and Don’ts on blackboard.


2. Class Participation (20% of course grade)

This course is a seminar and as participants in it you will be expected to contribute as much as I do.  Everyone is expected to come to class each week having read all of that week’s readings and be ready to engage in a thoughtful discussion of them.  We will want to think about various authors’ theoretical focus. What are the big picture questions they are addressing and seeking to answer? How are they going about answering them, what have they found and what do they conclude? Where might their research go next? We will also want to think about how might scholarly research inform political activism?  No matter how grand your research paper might be and how insightful your final exam might be if you do not actively make positive contributions to each week’s class discussion, you will not receive an A in the course. 


3. Research Paper (40% of grade):   Each student is required to write an original research paper on a topic related to women and politics. I must approve your topic.  If you are a Ph.D. student you might consider this paper to be a preliminary exercise toward a dissertation even if you have no desire to write a dissertation on women and politics. If you are a masters student, you should consider this paper as a possible starred paper or preliminary masters thesis. Your aim should be to have a piece of original research that could be a major step toward a conference presentation. The paper is not a research design or a literature review. You need to have a political behavior puzzle or question that you wish to answer empirically. You will develop and test an hypothesis. Once you have your hypothesis and research idea, we will work together in class periods to brain storm about how the research can be collected to answer your research puzzle or question and we will consider theoretical explanations. It may be that in the end you (along with the class) decide that the data to actually carry out the research is not available, but your goal will be to set up the research project theoretically so that the data could be collected. We will present and discuss the papers the week of April 21.


  1. I need to approve your project by February 6th. Thus, you need to set up a meeting with me before then. By February 6th turn in an abstract that includes the research question and a preliminary hypothesis or hypotheses. 
  2. Literature review due on Tuesday, March 24th
  3. Brief paper explaining the data and methods used in the paper on Tuesday, April 7rd
  4. Informal presentations on April 21st.
  5. The paper will be due April 28th.  To earn a passing grade in the course, this assignment must be completed.  Students enrolled in the course under an audit option are exempt. 


4. Take-home final (20% of grade):  The final exam will be written during finals week. You will be required to choose a research theme and develop an essay that synthesizes the major questions of the semester and reviews the research that has been conducted to address the theme that you have chosen.


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 a paper written in whole or in part by another; a paper copied word-for-word or with only minor changes from another soce; a paper copied in part from one or more sources without proper identification and acknowledgment of the sources; a paper that is merely a paraphrase of one or more sources, using ideas and/or logic without credit even though the actual words may be changed; and a paper that quotes, summarizes or paraphrases, or cuts and pastes words, phrases, or images from an Internet source without identification and the address of the web site.


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 an impact on their course work must register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building (753-1303). CAAR will assist students in making appropriate instructional and/or examination 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.