Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

In the early 1970’s, the growing women’s movement led to the establishment of numerous groups that set out to study the status of women in American society. Among the early organizations was the Center for the American Woman and Politics, established as part of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. That group took as one of its earliest tasks an investigation of the status of women in American politics, and to spearhead their study they chose Georgetown University professor of political science Jeane Kirkpatrick.

Understanding the background to Kirkpatrick’s investigation of American women in various political offices is important, for the aims of the study in large part determined both the form and the methodology of her work. The center was established to determine why so few women had participated actively in American politics and to recommend ways in which women could increase their involvement. As the author of the study that would eventually be published as Political Woman, Kirkpat-rick was given access to the data collected from fifty influential women politicians who attended a conference in 1972; there, these women debated among themselves the qualities they thought necessary for success in politics, and they completed confidential interviews during which they gave additional personal testimony about their struggles to be successful in an environment traditionally dominated by men.

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(The entire section is 555 words.)