The Politics of Motherhood
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton became a symbol of all that conservatives despised as women’s rights had expanded in the 1960s and ‘70s. Clinton was the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation, and the first female partner in her Little Rock law firm, and. She was one of the founders of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, devoting her career to protecting and advancing the rights of women and children and lifting other women out of poverty.
As her husband, Bill Clinton’s, political ambitions increased, her femininity came under increasing scrutiny. On the campaign trail, she was subjected to relentless attacks on her appearance, her personality, and even the tone of her voice. Frustrated by constant questions from the press about why she continued to work while her husband served as Governor, she fired back, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies.” Conservative commentators cast Clinton’s comments as an attack on women and their choices to stay in the home, positioning her as an enemy of women and families when in fact she had devoted her career to defending them. In a further attempt to tamp down the criticism, she accepted an invitation to a cookie-baking contest with former First Lady Barbara Bush, a contest she reportedly won. Unfortunately, the contest did not put an end to the media firestorm. The conservative obsession with Hillary Clinton and her femininity endured through her husband’s years in office, her years of service as Senator of New York and Secretary of State, and her own bid for the presidency. But the glass ceilings she had broken, the policies and systems she put in place for women and their children, became models for advocates seeking to create lasting change for those women who struggle with poverty.
Galleries & Exhibits
- 11865-1925: Hunger in the Industrial City
- 21929-1940: America in Crisis and Recovery
- 31945-1965: WWII and the Paradoxes of the Postwar Era
- 41955-1980: The Fight for the Right to Food
- 51975-1996: The Unmaking of the Great Society
- 61997-Present: How It Is — And How It Should Be