Women's Rights in the USA: Policy Debates and Gender Roles

Women's Rights in the USA: Policy Debates and Gender Roles

Women's Rights in the USA: Policy Debates and Gender Roles

Women's Rights in the USA: Policy Debates and Gender Roles


Women's Rights in the USA is a rigorous examination of the intersection of gender roles and public policy and the implications for feminist activists. The book places full information on state and federal statutes and court decisions in the context of the ebb and flow of debates that have engaged the public since the founding of the Republic. This fifth edition includes updates on all topics and expanded attention to same-sex marriage and lesbian issues, pay equity, conservative trends in courts, and women in elective politics.

This text is a resource for the inquiry into women's rights politics and policies. It is a record of the changes in the major areas affecting gender roles and the status of women: constitutional law, political participation, reproduction, family law, education, work and pay, work and family, sexuality and economic status. It is more than a recital of laws, statutes and court decisions. The chapters focus on the development of the changes in debates over these issues and how the debates produce laws and provide the environment for their administration and interpretation. It also highlights the role, and impact, of feminists in the debates.


It’s a pleasure to roll out a new edition of Women’s Rights in the USA: Policy Debates and Gender Roles. Like the first four editions, the book provides a comprehensive survey of the major policy debates, laws, and practices which affect the status of women, and of men, in the United States. As the bright line between the public and private spheres of the twentieth century fades further still, we find the policy debates of the twenty-first century demanding a detailed account of policy history, but also greater nuance in our understandings of sex and gender, choice and autonomy, and the politics and practice of public policy.

This edition again has two authors. The book originated nearly three decades ago with Dorothy alone, and Janine remains grateful to her both for her continuing contributions and her gracious guidance. Together we have reviewed every piece of the book to preserve it as a trustworthy resource for inquiry into women’s rights policies and politics. For every policy issue—constitutional equality, political participation, reproduction, education, family, work, work and family, sexuality and economic status—there is information on how and when the issue came to the political agenda, changes in discourse, the push and pull of feminist debates, patterns of group conflict, and policy outcomes from Congress, courts, and the state governments through early 2015. The book is a record of changes in political debates and policies affecting the gender roles of women as a whole and in their respective racial, ethnic, sexual, and religious identities, as well as the role of feminist thinkers and activists in the process.

First-time readers as well as those familiar with earlier editions will want to know what’s new in this book. It tracks the effects of the increasing conservatism of the Supreme Court and its consequences, e.g., the Lilly Ledbetter case, as well as the enactment (and limitations) of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that resulted. There is still more explicit attention to the effects and limits of intersectionality, including a new section on reproductive rights for poor women, the further integration of lesbian relationships into the examination of family law, and enhanced attention to intimate partner . . .

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