Women’s History is Tea Party History?

This morning I read this great piece from Ruth Rosen over at the History News Network where she unpacks the role of women in the Tea Party movement.

Women also play a decisive role in the Tea Party and now make up 55 percent of its supporters, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll.  Hanna Rosin reports in Slate that “of the eight board members of the Tea Party Patriots who serve as national coordinators for the movement, six are women.  Fifteen of thetwenty-five state coordinators are women.”

Why, I’ve wondered, does this chaotic movement appeal to so many women?  There are many possible reasons.  Some of the women in these groups are certainly women who love men who love guns and who hate the government and taxes.  Professor Kathleen Blee, who has written widely about right-wing women, suggests that there are probably more religious right-wing women than men in general, that Tea Party rallies may attract more women who are not working and therefore can attend them, and that the Tea Party emphasizes family vulnerability to all kinds of external danger.

Then, tonight I was getting back to my exam reading, which included Tom Tweed’s edited volume Retelling U.S. Religious History.  I was re-reading Ann Braude’s chapter in the book, “Women’s History Is American Religious History,” where she argues that women have always made up the majority of religious adherents in American history.  Her essay calls for a history of religions in America that takes into account the presence of women, rather than traditional narratives that focus on the presence and absence of men.

So, connecting the dots, I began to wonder.  To what extent is the Tea Party movement channeling the same dynamic that has driven American religion?  Are the reasons that women have supported religious institutions that have largely excluded them from authority and power the same as the reason why women are now supporting Tea Party conservatism? Maybe the Tea Party’s greatest connection to American religious history is its women.

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3 thoughts on “Women’s History is Tea Party History?

  1. If you’re going to look at women and the Tea Party, you should also look at marital status. My understanding is that marital status is the single greatest predictor of women’s political leanings. I haven’t thought much about marital status and religion, but may be it should be looked at.

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    1. Great point, Stephen. I think the question of marriage is a big one, in the way you mention and also in the ways women draw men into religion or the Tea Party. One thing Braude mentions is how men most often attend church in the presence of a woman and that many preachers and theologians cite their mother’s piety as a factor in their own call to faith. Perhaps women function similarly for the Tea Party–I don’t know.

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