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Press Portrayals of Women Politicians, 1870s–2000s

From "Lunatic" Woodhull to "Polarizing" Palin

Teri Finneman

Hardback
Paperback
eBook
Recent history suggests the United States is within reach of its first woman president. This book examines the media experiences of women political pioneers who helped pave the way to the breaking of the glass ceiling. It analyzes newspaper treatment of four pioneering politicians between the 1870s and 2000s and explores how media discourse of women politicians has and hasn’t changed over 150 years. The women featured are Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president; Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress; Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to receive a presidential nomination at a major party’s convention; and Sarah Palin, the first Republican woman vice presidential candidate. The social, political, and journalistic cultures of each woman’s era are also explored to provide context for the women’s media coverage. The findings illustrate that the press has used a variety of discursive strategies to delegitimize the candidacies of women politicians throughout history, which might have contributed to negative voter attitudes toward women in politics. Gendered stereotypes, gendered news frames, and double binds utilized in news coverage served to protect a male-dominated status quo. Yet a significant finding in Palin’s coverage indicates that gender bias in news coverage is increasingly facing criticism, suggesting the tide may finally be turning in favor of more equalized discourse. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 228Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4985-2424-7 • Hardback • November 2015 • $85.00 • (£54.95)
978-1-4985-2426-1 • Paperback • May 2017 • $44.99 • (£29.95)
978-1-4985-2425-4 • eBook • November 2015 • $84.99 • (£54.95)
Teri Finneman is an assistant professor of journalism at South Dakota State University and former political reporter.
Chapter One: Politics, Power, and the Press
Chapter Two: Media Vilification of Victoria Woodhull
Chapter Three: Media Legitimization of Jeannette Rankin
Chapter Four: Media Negligence of Margaret Chase Smith
Chapter Five: Media Celebritization of Sarah Palin
Chapter Six: From Woodhull to Palin & Moving Forward
Appendix: Methodology
Press Portrayals ofWomen Politicians is organized and written logically, coherently, and persuasively. The chapters progress chronologically, guiding the reader through news coverage of female political candidates during various waves of feminism and shifts in journalistic norms. The case studies follow similar structures, enabling a clear progression of ideas and comparison across female candidates. In its tone and structure, the book reads, at times, like it may have evolved from a doctoral dissertation but is engaging and accessible. It will appeal to scholars across disciplines and readers with an interest in gender, politics, and media at their various intersections. In the short term, it is timely in light of the upcoming 2016 presidential election and Hillary Clinton’s place within it. In the long term, it is a lasting contribution to knowledge about political women pioneers specifically and women’s political history generally.
American Journalism: A Media History Journal


In this relevant and thought-provoking book, Finneman reveals a historical arc of discursive inequality in mainstream media coverage of women politicians and how this gendered framing has consistently been used to limit women’s advancement in the American political arena. This book should be core reading for students and teachers of gender, politics, and the American media.
Candi S. Carter Olson, Utah State University


This careful historical study of campaign news coverage illustrates the nexus of gendered norms and tropes that cross party lines in discourses legitimating and/or delegitimating women’s political leadership—and it is unique in offering practical advice for both politicians and journalists. While Finneman’s findings are particularly insightful for feminist scholars struggling to sift through complex portraits of conservative female figures in both campaign rhetoric and media representations, her analysis touches on much larger themes of cultural stasis and change. In attending to particular differences as well as larger patterns, Finneman provides a detailed mapping of the media landscape on which gender in contemporary U.S. political culture is operating.
Joan Faber McAlister, Drake University


Finneman engages in the important work of documenting the races of historically important women politicians and analyzing the press coverage in a way that helps advance our generalized understanding of how the press operates with regard to the changing role of women in the political sphere. This is a well-written and enjoyable book that adds important new data and analysis to the literature on press coverage of political women. It tackles an important topic and does it well.
Erika Falk, author of Women for President


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