Tammy Vigil’s new book, Moms in Chief: The Rhetoric of Republican Motherhood and the Spouses of Presidential Nominees, 1992-2016 (University Press of Kansas, 2019), examines the contemporary “first spouses” on the campaign trail, at the nominating conventions, and pays particular attention to how these women (and one man, the 2016 case of former President Bill Clinton) position themselves and are positioned within a fairly narrow role in relation to their candidate-husbands. Vigil’s analysis is particularly interesting and informative in how we think about the role of public women in our country, especially in relation to the White House and their unelected roles within the political sphere. Vigil frames her examination of these dyads (the winning and losing first spouses) in context of our thinking about how women should inhabit, or not inhabit, political space. This draws on classical understandings of republican motherhood, and she traces how gendered framing and traditional expectations continue to dominate how first wives and aspirational first spouses are considered by the public, especially during the presidential campaigns themselves. This research is interdisciplinary, pulling together gender and women’s studies, political science, communication, popular culture, and history in a very readable and fascinating analysis.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of Political Science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She co-edited the award-winning Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012).
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI.