Jeane J. Kirkpatrick’s tenacious advocacy of American interests in international politics and her conscious role as an advocate for women combining career and family made her an influential figure in contemporary thought.
Born Jeane Duane Jordan, she graduated in 1948 from Barnard College in New York City and earned her master’s degree from Columbia University in 1950. In 1955 she married Evron Kirkpatrick, who was later named executive director of the American Political Science Association. She chose to take a temporary leave from academics and raise their three sons, Douglas Jordan, John Evron, and Stuart Alan.
In the mid-1960’s Kirkpatrick returned to academics. She served as assistant professor of political science at Trinity College from 1962 to 1967. From 1967 to 1981, she taught political science at Georgetown University. In 1968 she earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University. Kirkpatrick was also active in the Democratic Party; in 1972 she was involved in forming the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, an organization designed to mitigate what she and her colleagues perceived to be Senator George McGovern’s excessive influence on the Democratic Party.
Kirkpatrick opposed the foreign policy of President Jimmy Carter’s administration, asserting that it overlooked the injustices of communist “totalitarian” dictatorships while undermining right-wing “authoritarian” regimes that supported U.S. interests. Her distinction between the hostile “totalitarian” left and the friendly “authoritarian” right proved controversial. Kirkpatrick was adamant and vocal about her views, and they caught the attention of Ronald Reagan. Once elected president, he appointed her to the...
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