Tea Party Women

Mama Grizzlies, Grassroots Leaders, and the Changing Face of the American Right

384 pages

44 b/w figures

May, 2016

ISBN: 9781479866427



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Melissa Deckman is the Louis L. Goldstein Professor of Public Affairs at Washington College, where she also chairs the Political Science Department. An expert on gender, religion, and American politics, she is the author or co-author of four books, including Tea Party Women and School Board Battles: The Christian Right in Local Politics, winner of the 2007 Hubert Morken Award for the best book on Religion & Politics from the American Political Science Association. She chairs the board of the Public Religion Research Institute and her political commentary has appeared in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, and the Brookings Institution’s FixGov blog.

All books by Melissa Deckman

Notable for its radical conservative views, the Tea Party is progressive in one way that much of mainstream US politics is not: it has among its most vocal members not spokesmen but spokeswomen. Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Governor Nikki Haley, US Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and many others are all prominent figureheads for the fiery and prominent political movement. Many major Tea Party organizations, such as the Tea Party Patriots, are led by women and women have been instrumental in founding new right wing organizations for women, such as Smart Girl Politics, with ties to the movement.  

In Tea Party Women, Melissa Deckman explores the role of women in creating and leading the movement and the greater significance of women’s involvement in the Tea Party for our understanding of female political leadership and the future of women in the American Right. Through national-level public opinion data, observation at Tea Party rallies, and interviews with female Tea Party leaders, Deckman demonstrates that many Tea Party women find the grassroots, decentralized nature of the movement to be more inclusive for them than mainstream Republican politics.  She lays out the ways in which these women gain traction by recasting conservative political issues such as the deficit and gun control as issues affecting families, and how they rely on traditional gender roles as mothers and homemakers to underscore their particular expertise in understanding these issues. Furthermore, she examines how many Tea Party women claim to write off traditional feminist issues like reproductive rights and gender discrimination as distracting from the real issues affecting women, such as economic policies, and how some even reclaim the mantel of ‘feminism’ as signifying freedom and independence from government overreach—tactics that have over time been adopted by mainstream Republicans. Whether the Tea Party terrifies or fascinates you, Tea Party Women provides a behind-the-scenes look at the women behind an enduring and influential faction in American politics.


  • "Deckman profiles some of the most vocal pro-women groups of the movement...A sharp...critical analysis of how the role of women in the rise of the tea party is affecting conservative political change."

    Kirkus Reviews

  • [Recommended] to all of those who wish to understand why, how, to what end—and with what impact—women are involved in the Tea Party.”

    Sex Roles

  • "In these times of political polarization, Deckman's work is a conduit to help us better listen to and understand the complexities of identities and the genealogies of political strategy, in order to see how 'they' define 'their interests."

    Politics & Gender

  • "Too often, the media's caricature of the Tea Party misses the mark on what this movement was all about and why so many women felt drawn to it. In Tea Party Women, Melissa Deckman actually speaks with women in the movement and digs into the data to provide a more nuanced picture of the reasons why the Tea Party attracted many American women."

    —Kristen Soltis Anderson, author of The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials Are Leading America

  • "Tea Party Women delves deeply into how gender, ideology and activism intersect. Deckman’s thorough and scrupulously researched account of why and how women have emerged as leaders of the Tea Party movement is essential reading for scholars of women and politics, interest groups, political parties, social movements and conservative politics. This accessible, yet comprehensive book, provides firsthand insights into how women have found their voices through conservative politics and what motivates them to promote Tea Party causes. The book is thematically timely, but will also stand the test of time, as it addresses enduring political questions of strategy, power and identity." 

    —Ronnee Schreiber, author of Righting Feminism: Conservative Women and American Politics