Home > News > What we’re reading this Mother’s Day weekend
120 views 5 min 0 Comment

What we’re reading this Mother’s Day weekend

A crowd-sourced list of scholarly works on politics and motherhood.

- May 10, 2024
Mother's Day reading
(cc) Nongbri Family Pix

This Sunday, those of us in the United States will celebrate Mother’s Day, our 110th since it was named a federal holiday to be commemorated annually on the second Sunday of May. Other countries celebrate mothers other days. For example, today – May 10th – is the day that Mexico celebrates Día de la Madre. In Malawi, they honor mothers annually on Oct. 15 – since 2008, that’s the day the United Nations has recognized as the International Day of Rural Women.

To mark Mother’s Day this year, we wanted to share what some political science research has taught us about motherhood and politics. This continues a tradition of posts we used to feature at The Monkey Cage on Mother’s Day. In 2021, Sarah Hayes, Jill Greenlee, and Ivy Cargile wrote about what the diverse population of mothers in the U.S. might want from policymakers, especially when faced with the significant increase in caretaking burdens due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent school closures. That same year, Aidan Smith wrote about how Black women use motherhood’s power to advocate for Black lives.

What to read?

So what could you read in political science about mothers, motherhood, and politics? There’s plenty and I can’t cover it all here. (One good place to start, however, is Jill Greenlee’s book, The Political Consequences of Motherhood.) In lieu of being comprehensive, the list below includes a few articles I’ve read (or re-read) recently that you might find interesting: 

  • “Intersectional Motherhood and Candidate Evaluations in the United States” by Jennie Sweet-Cushman and Nichole Bauer (2024)
  • “Babies and Ballots: Timing of Childbirth and Voter Turnout” by Cindy Kam, Sara Kirshbaum, and Lauren Chojnacki (2023)
  • “To Emerge? Breadwinning, Motherhood, and Women’s Decisions to Run for Office” by Rachel Bernhard, Shauna Shames, and Dawn Teele (2021)
  • “Do moms demand action on guns? Parenthood and gun policy attitudes” by Steven Greene, Melissa Deckman, Laurel Elder, and Mary-Kate Lizotte (2020)
  • “White House, Black Mother: Michelle Obama and the Politics of Motherhood as First Lady” by Gloria Ayee, Jessica Johnson Carew, Taneisha Means, Alicia Reyes-Barriéntez, and Nura Sediqe (2019)
  • “Working Mothers Represent: How Children Affect the Legislative Agenda of Women in Congress” by Lisa Bryant and Julia Marin Hellwege (2019)
  • “‘Can You Hear Me Now?’ Race, Motherhood, and the Politics of Being Heard” by Kimberly Killen (2019)
  • “Mothers on the campaign trail: implications of Politicized Motherhood for women in politics” by Grace Deason, Jill Greenlee, and Carrie Langner (2014)
  • “What Is the Difference Between a Hockey Mom and a Pit Bull?: Presentations of Palin and Gender Stereotypes in the 2008 Presidential Election” by Sarah Burns, Lindsay Eberhardt, and Jennifer Merolla (2013)

I also asked a couple of my colleagues for reading recommendations, and here is what they shared:

Heather Sullivan:

Moms, if brunch isn’t feeling like enough this year, consider protesting too! Women around the world have always been key actors in protest movements. And in fact there are concrete benefits for protests with strong female participation. Erica Chenoweth (2019) shows that higher levels of women’s participation in a mass movement make security forces less likely to follow orders to repress. Likewise, Martin Naunov (2024) finds that the public also sees women’s protests as less deserving of repression. However, he finds that this is not uniformly true. Survey respondents considered protesters described as feminists as more deserving of repression than those described as mothers. In addition to using motherhood as a shield against repression, women can also use symbols of motherhood in their fight for human rights and accountability. So get out there, moms!

Danielle Gilbert:

For those curious about the relationship between motherhood and nationalism, a great place to start is Woman-Nation-State (1989) by sociologists Nira Yuval-Davis and Floya Anthias. Drawing on cases of women’s roles in nationalist movements around the world, the edited volume explains the centrality of mothers and motherhood as symbols of nationalist movements and the ideological and biological reproduction of the nation. 

What research on motherhood and politics did we leave out that you think we should recommend to our readers? Comment below or email us with your suggestions.