Moms in Chief: The Rhetoric of Republican Motherhood and the Spouses of Presidential Nominees, 1992–2016

Univ. Pr. of Kansas. Feb. 2019. 272p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780700627486. $29.95. POL SCI
Expanding on a chapter in her earlier book, Connecting with Constituents, which compared the rhetorical techniques used in candidates' wives' speeches from 1992 through 2012, Vigil (communication, Boston Univ.) examines the evolving portrayal of these spouses through 2016 by the media, their party and their opponents' parties, and themselves. The author explains that these surrogate campaigners and potential first ladies, tasked with introducing the candidates' personal sides, have both reflected and impacted voters' assumptions regarding women's positions in politics and society. She argues that despite the women's educational and professional achievements, they have been intentionally represented and evaluated using the Republican motherhood ideal, which expects women to be domestically oriented, deferential, supportive, and self-sacrificing—a sometimes advantageous but otherwise archaic, narrow, and discrediting perspective that constrains women's political empowerment. Vigil encourages election stakeholders to be open-minded and realistic regarding the diversity and depth of the contributions of contemporary women.
VERDICT This insightful book should spark continued discussion regarding gender roles, contemporary women's multifarious personae, and their acceptance as professionals and independent political actors.

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