Honors College
 

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Major

Political Science

Advisor(s)

Amy Fried, Rachel Snell

Committee Members

Amy Blackstone, Robert Glover, Mark Haggerty

Graduation Year

May 2020

Publication Date

Spring 5-2020

Abstract

This paper seeks to understand how female politicians develop their public identities to meet and reject the gender stereotypes society holds of women. The case study looks at Margaret Chase Smith’s political career, with a special focus on her 1964 presidential campaign. The research analyzed Smith’s career through the newspaper coverage of her in order to understand Smith’s choices surrounding her public identity and the media’s response. The analysis identified four distinct points of interest that contributed to Smith’s public persona: physical appearance, examples of housewifery, dialogue on women’s issues, and legislative accomplishments. These factors demonstrate how Smith presented her level of femininity in the public eye. Smith balanced her attempts to appear feminine and in touch with the lives of average housewives with her sharp rhetoric against feminism and gender discrimination. At the same time, she assumed powerful positions in the male-dominated world of politics. This thesis will use Margaret Chase Smith to explore the ways that she developed her public identity to meet societal and gender expectations of women while pushing the boundaries of acceptable female aspirations. These findings compared with contemporary literature on gender stereotypes of women in politics search for what, if any, differences there are in expectations of women running for the presidency versus women running for lower levels of public office. Creating a dialogue around the distinct efforts made by female political candidates to navigate gender stereotypes is the first step in alleviating these challenges to women.

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