Divided We Stand Cover

Progress is Not Linear: A Book Event with Dr. Marjorie J. Spruill

Time and Place

6th Floor Board Room, The Wilson Center

Event Details


Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

In 1977, thousands of women flooded into Houston, Texas for the National Women's Conference at a time when both major political parties in the U.S. supported the goals of the women's rights movement. Yet at the 1977 conference this bipartisan support turned into a political dissonance that remains a part of fundamental rifts in U.S. politics today.

Since the 1970's, women’s representation in policy and political leadership in the U.S. has increased: over the last 40 years, women’s participation in the Senate has increased by 21 percent and by 15 percent in the House. This has ensured key issues from 1977, such as maternity leave and equal pay, continue to play a role in national policy conversations. However, the parties are no longer united over all of these issues.

On July 24, the Women in Public Service Project at the Wilson Center (WPSP) hosted a book event with former Wilson Center Fellow Dr. Marjorie J. Spruill, author of the book Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women's Rights and Family Values that Polarized American Politics to discuss the findings of her research that led to the publication of this book, and her work in women’s history to show that, indeed, “progress is not linear”.

Divided We Stand draws the connection between the events that divided American women in the 70s and the subsequent polarization of American politics. In particular, Dr. Spruill took interest in telling the story fairly and accurately with a special focus on expressing the less commonly discussed viewpoint of conservative women.

Dr. Spruill also distinguished elected and appointed women, particularly those in Congress, from advocacy groups from both parties. She envisioned that within Congress will emerge a bipartisan group that would step up for the interest of the country on trending issues such as healthcare and childcare, as well as keep women’s issues at the core of the agenda.

Dr. Spruill also commented on the broader concern of language use as women’s issues are at the forefront of our contemporary discussion. “From the perspective of the women’s movement, the term [feminist] has been embraced by widely popular figures, including ones who resonate with young women and who young women want to emulate, as a very positive development.” She is hopeful that by ensuring two-way communication with one another, women regardless of political affiliations will take advantage of their diverse mindsets, come together, and accelerate the progress toward gender parity that would benefit the country as a whole.

Find more event photos via Flickr.

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