Know Your Enemy: Mothers of Conservatism, with Michelle M. Nickerson

Know Your Enemy: Mothers of Conservatism, with Michelle M. Nickerson

In the 1940s and 1950s, conservative women activists mobilized against perceived threats to the family and the nation, laying the groundwork for family politics on the right for decades to come.

Mothers' Crusade for Victory over Communism poster (Yanker Poster Collection/Wikimedia Commons)

Know Your Enemy is a podcast about the American right co-hosted by Matthew Sitman and Sam Adler-Bell. Read more about it here. You can subscribe to, rate, and review the show on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, and receive bonus content by supporting the podcast on Patreon.

Matt and Sam talk to Michelle M. Nickerson about her brilliant book Mothers of Conservatism, which explores the lives and political activism of conservative women in the Los Angeles area in the 1940s and 1950s. Unlike many other conversations on the show, this one is less about intellectuals and ideas than it is about social history—a description of how, as Nickerson puts it, housewife activists worked to “protect the nation from aliens, internationalism, and power-hungry bureaucrats in Washington.” Topics include: the Great Depression and the rise of “housewife populism,” conservative bookstores and “Americanism” centers run by women, the networks of activism that conservative women built and deployed, fierce battles over public education, the menace of psychiatry and the social sciences in shaping education policy, and more.


Sources and further reading:

Michelle M. Nickerson, Mothers of Conservatism, Princeton University Press

Stefanik’s Rise and Cheney’s Fall Mark a New Role for GOP Women, Washington Post

Alan Brinkley, The Problem of American Conservatism, American History Review (1994)

Jean Bethke Elshtain, Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy, Basic Books (2002)


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