Politics & Gender

Research Article

Soccer Moms, Hockey Moms and the Question of “Transformative” Motherhood

Jill S. Greenleea1

a1 Brandeis University


From Dwight Eisenhower to John McCain, presidential candidates have appealed to female voters by highlighting motherhood in their campaigns. The most recent example of this has been the “hockey mom” trope introduced by the first hockey mom to earn a slot on the GOP presidential ticket, Governor Sarah Palin. These appeals, while motivated by political gamesmanship, imply that mothers see the political world a bit differently from other women. They suggest that women with children have different political priorities and concerns and, at times, different positions on political issues. This article takes this proposition seriously, and asks the question: Does becoming a mother have a transformative effect on women's political attitudes? Using longitudinal data from the four-wave 1965–97 Political Socialization Panel Study, I track the movement of women's political attitudes on partisan identification, ideological identification, and policy issues. I find that the effects of motherhood on women's political attitudes, while not uniform in nature, do push some women to adopt more conservative political attitudes. Thus, these results suggest that while motherhood does not transform women's political attitudes, for some women motherhood does promote interesting attitudinal shifts.

Jill S. Greenlee is Assistant Professor of Politics at Brandeis University. Some of her current research involves exploring how politicized collective identities shape women's likelihood of political action as well as their evaluations of political candidates. In addition, her current book project examines the political dynamics of motherhood. Professor Greenlee teaches courses in American Politics, Women and Politics, Political Behavior, and Research Methods.


The Research Circle on Democracy and Cultural Pluralism and the Gordon Center for American Public Policy provided valuable financial support for this project, for which I am grateful. I would also like to thank Laura Stoker, Tatishe Nteta, Rachel VanSickle-Ward, Kevin Wallsten, and the editors and anonymous reviewers at Politics & Gender for their insightful comments and suggestions. I also greatly appreciate the research assistance of Ilana Maier and Susan Overstreet.