Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right

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Overview

Mothers of Conservatism tells the story of 1950s southern Californian housewives who shaped the grassroots right in the two decades following World War II. Michelle Nickerson describes how red-hunting homemakers mobilized activist networks, institutions, and political consciousness in local education battles, and she introduces a generation of women who developed political styles and practices around their domestic routines. From the conservative movement's origins in the early fifties through the presidential election of 1964, Nickerson documents how women shaped conservatism from the bottom up, out of the fabric of their daily lives and into the agenda of the Republican Party.

Female activists formed study groups, gave lectures, published newsletters, hosted public events, and opened conservative bookstores, bringing Cold War geopolitics into their local communities. Frightened that communism was infecting the minds of their children through the public education system, these women took it upon themselves to address potential threats. This sense of duty, ironically, removed many of them from the house for numerous hours of the week to perform political work, and their activities contributed to a feminine ideal that Nickerson calls the "populist housewife"—a political model of womanhood that emphasized common sense, lack of pretension, and spirituality.

A unique history of the American conservative movement, Mothers of Conservatism shows how housewives got out of the house and discovered their political capital.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of American History - Mary C. Brennan
Nickerson has enriched conservative historiography by examining the integral role women played in conservatism's development and implementation and has forced feminist historiography to confront the complications that conservative female activists bring to the literature.
From the Publisher
"Nickerson has enriched conservative historiography by examining the integral role women played in conservatism's development and implementation and has forced feminist historiography to confront the complications that conservative female activists bring to the literature."—Mary C. Brennan, Journal of American History

"Michelle M. Nickerson's carefully crafted study of grassroots conservative activists in Los Angeles County in the 1950s and early 1960s offers an important contribution to the scholarship on twentieth-century conservatism and women's political activism in the pre-Feminine Mystique (1963) 'doldrums.'"—Sylvie Murray, American Historical Review

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Product Details

Meet the Author


Michelle M. Nickerson is assistant professor of history at Loyola University, Chicago. She is coeditor of "Sunbelt Rising: The Politics of Space, Place, and Region."
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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations viii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xiii

Abbreviations xxv

Chapter I: Patriotic Daughters and Isolationist Mothers

Conservative Women in the Early Twentieth Century 1

Chapter II: All Politics Was Local

Grassroots Conservatism in Postwar Los Angeles 32

Chapter III: Education or Indoctrination?

Conservative Female Activism in the Los Angeles Public Schools 69

Chapter IV: "Siberia, U.S.A."

Psychological Experts and the State 103

Chapter V: The "Conservative Sex"

Women and the Building of a Movement 136

Conclusion 169

Appendix: Conservative Bookstores Operating in Southern California in the 1960s 175

Notes 179

Index 217

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