(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The dominant characteristic of Political Woman is its moderate, scholarly tone. Eschewing the more radical and polemical stances being taken by contemporaries writing on women’s issues, Kirkpatrick retains throughout a sense of disinterestedness toward her topic. She often lets her interview subjects speak for themselves, summarizing astutely their feelings about their struggles and accomplishments. Only in her conclusion does she move away from her more conservative role as a documentary expert to issue what might be considered a challenge to American society to give women a greater voice in the political process than they had hitherto been accorded.

As a consequence, the work may be more accurately described as a portrait of “what is” rather than as a declaration of “what ought to be.” The women interviewed for Kirkpatrick’s study had all achieved some level of success in the predominantly male world of politics; it should not be surprising, therefore, to find that many of them had accepted the norms of the society that gave precedence to men in these roles. The result is that many seem to exhibit characteristics of behavior that could be described as accommodating. A majority of these female politicians attributed their success to their ability to remain feminine and to accept the roles assigned to them within the system; they believed that they were serving best by first doing what they were allowed, then advancing, when permitted, into more responsible positions within their parties and legislative assemblies. The underlying message of the book is that...

(The entire section is 654 words.)