"CHANGING DIFFERENCES: Women and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy, 1917-1994" by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

"CHANGING DIFFERENCES: Women and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy, 1917-1994"

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This thoughtful study weighs received wisdom about women who influence American foreign policy against the evidence. Jeffreys-Jones approaches historical material with judicious balance, asking what, if any, unique perspectives women bring to foreign policy discussions. In doing so, he seeks to dispel the opposing stereotypes of the peace-loving woman and the ""Iron Lady"" (the Margaret Thatcher model of the woman who, when she has power, is even more hawkish than men). Beginning with WW I, Jeffreys-Jones (History/Univ. of Edinburgh; The CIA and American Democracy, 1989, etc.) profiles such principals as Dorothy Detzer, Harriet Elliott, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Chase Smith, and Bella Abzug. He avoids the turgid nature of much writing about foreign policy by highlighting personal traits: Abzug's foul mouth and wacky hats; Smith's stylish appearance and political independence, etc. He also tracks gender gaps in public opinion at key historical moments and examines the influence of organizations like the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the League of Women Voters, and the Women's Strike for Peace. One intriguing chapter delineates the crucial role women played in the low tariffs/free-trade movement of the interwar years, a role that receives little attention today. He does overlook some important theoretical work in this area -- Sara Ruddick's Maternal Thinking, for example -- but his historical conversation is well grounded. At points the author's skepticism toward stereotype falters; in one footnote, for instance, he cheerfully reports that Betty Friedan eventually revised ""her antimale stance,"" a questionable characterization of Friedan's thought at any point. Despite these lapses, generally engaging.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 287pp
Publisher: Rutgers Univ.