Critchlow, Donald T. 1948-

views updated

Critchlow, Donald T. 1948-


Born May 18, 1948, in Pasadena, CA; son of Patrick B. and Anne Critchlow; married Patricia Elizabeth Powers, 1978; children: Agnieszka, Magda. Education: San Francisco State University, B.A., 1970; University of California, Berkeley, M.A., 1972, Ph.D., 1978. Politics: Republican. Religion: Catholic.


Home—Chevy Chase, MD. Office—Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, 1000 Jefferson Dr. SW, Washington, DC 20650. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, educator. North Central College, Naperville, IL, assistant professor of history, 1978-81; University of Dayton, assistant professor of history, 1981-83; University of Notre Dame, assistant professor, then associate professor of history, 1983-91; Saint Louis University, department of history chair, professor, 1991—. University of California, Berkeley, teaching assistant, 1974; University of California, Institute of Industrial Relations, research assistant, 1975; San Francisco State University, acting instructor in history, 1976; University of California, Berkeley, acting instructor in environmental studies, 1977. Journal of Policy History, editor; reader for John Hopkins University Press, Cornell University Press, Northern Illinois University Press, Temple University Press, Dorsey Press, Pennsylvania State University Press, Houghton-Mifflin, Journal of American History, and Review of Politics.


The Brookings Institution, 1916-1952, Expertise and the Public Interest in a Democratic Society, Northern Illinois University Press (DeKalb, IL), 1985.

(Editor) Socialism in the Heartland: The Midwestern Experience, 1890-1920, University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 1986.

(Editor, with Ellis Hawley) Federal Social Policy: The Historical Dimension, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1989.

(Editor, with Ellis Hawley) Poverty and Public Policy in Modern America, Wadsworth Press (Belmont, CA), 1989.

(With William Rorabaugh) America! A Concise History, Wadsworth Press (Belmont, CA), 1994.

(Editor) A History of the United States, Polish Academic Press (Warsaw, Poland), 1995.

Studebaker: The Life and Death of an American Corporation, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1996.

(Editor) The Politics of Abortion and Birth Control in Historical Perspective, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1996.

The Serpentine Way: Family Planning Policy in Postwar America: Elites, Agendas, and Political Mobilization, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997.

(Editor, with Charles H. Parker) With Us Always: A History of Private Charity and Public Welfare, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 1998.

Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Government in Modern America, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1999.

(Editor, with daughter, Agnieszka Critchlow) Enemies of the State: Personal Stories from the Gulag, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 2002.

(Editor, with Charles H. Parker) America's Promise: A Concise History of the United States, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 2004.

Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2005.

The Conservative Ascendancy: How the GOP Right Made Political History, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2007.

Series editor for "Critical Issues in European and American History." Contributor of articles to journals and to edited volumes.


Donald T. Critchlow is a history professor and the author of numerous studies of social, cultural, and political life in twentieth-century America. He has written on topics as diverse as family planning, the biography of an iconic corporation, and the life of conservative spokesperson, Phyllis Schlafly. In Studebaker: The Life and Death of an American Corporation, Critchlow tells a story that mirrors much of the economic history of the twentieth century. As Nation contributor Joanne Jacobson noted: "The history of the Studebaker Corporation embodies a set of critical changes in the orientation of economic power that have shaped this entire century in the industrialized world: the evolution in organizational structure and in management-labor relations from a family to a corporate model; the shift in emphasis from production to finance; the increasing concentration of economic resources." Founded by five brothers in the 1850s, the Studebaker company was intended to embody Christian values of cooperation, and it was thus resistant to unions, for the company saw itself as the agency that would take care of its own workers. Expansion during World War I, when Studebaker won a government contract for wagons, led the company beyond the narrow confines of a family-run business. The switch to corporate capitalism came about when the company began producing cars, a high technology item requiring high capitalization. World War II further expanded the corporation, for by then the company was manufacturing trucks for the war effort. However, ultimately Studebaker could not compete against the big automakers, despite last-minute attempts at innovation such as the Avanti in the 1960s. For Jacobson, "few companies' histories seem so visibly to dramatize the struggle between human-scale industrialism and the corporate capitalism." Jacobson further observed that, despite the fact that Studebaker "has the narrow, in-house feel of an annual report," it still "effectively conveys the painful human drama of Studebaker's demise."

Critchlow once told CA: "In my two recent books, Studebaker and The Politics of Abortion and Birth Control in Historical Perspective, I sought to bring to my readers an understanding of current economic and social issues through an historical perspective. In doing this, I was concerned with framing complex policy issues within a narrative that allows readers to become actively engaged in confronting the issues and problems of actors in the past. Narrative cannot replace analysis, but analysis without narrative in historical writing too often tends to be dull, dusty, and dry."

With Enemies of the State: Personal Stories from the Gulag, Critchlow edited ten individual accounts of victims of Communist gulags around the world. Among those included are Americans, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Hungarian, all imprisoned and tortured for their political or religious beliefs. Ann Hart, writing in Kliatt, observed that this collection is "designed to provide the reader with a sample of the writings that began emerging in the late 1930s and influenced Cold War attitudes toward the Soviet Union, the Eastern bloc and other Communist countries." Noting Critchlow's emphasis on religious prisoners, Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor concluded: "Less religious anti-Communist sentiment will also find ample material for outrage at the physical and mental debasement intentionally inflicted on these prisoners."

Critchlow focused on conservative politics with his 2005 title, Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade. Best known for almost single-handedly defeating the Equal Rights Amendment in the late 1970s, Schlafly has for decades championed conservative causes and been an ardent opponent of feminism, abortion, and what she terms the "Eastern elites." In 1975 she founded the Eagle Forum, to help stop the ERA from becoming a constitutional amendment. She has continued her influence in conservative quarters through her monthly newsletter, via radio and television appearances, and in her writing and speaking appearances. Indeed, as Judith Warner noted in the New York Times Book Review, "Schlafly has, for the better part of the past 50 years, been a one-woman right-wing communications empire." Critchlow explained his motivation for writing Phyllis Schlafly and GrassrootsConservatism to Jamie Glazov on the FrontPage Magazine Web site: "I was interested in the political transformation that has occurred in my lifetime, as the New Deal regime collapsed and the nation moved to the right politically. Why much attention had been given to the important role intellectuals played in this political change, less attention had been given to the grassroots conservatism. There were some studies on grassroots conservatism in California, but even though I am a native Californian, I know that this state is not the entire nation. Also, I was interested in the role that conservative women played in this grassroots conservative movement…. It dawned on me that a political biography of Phyllis Schlafly would be an ideal way of addressing these issues."

Critchlow traces Schlafly's life from the Catholic anticommunist groups of the 1960s to her opposition to the ERA and on to her continued role as conservative spokesperson. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found Critchlow's account an "engaging, if flawed, biography." The same reviewer further commented that the book "wavers between being a sustained account of Schlafly's career and a comprehensive political history of the conservative and religious right—and delivers fully on neither." Not surprisingly, Critchlow's work received a warmer welcome with conservative journals. Writing in the National Review, Kate O'Beirne termed the biography "the work of a respectful academic who has delved into the archives to tell an important untold story." O'Beirne further noted that Critchlow tells "the largely ignored role of activists in the rise of the Right. He notes that the intellectual seeds sown by conservative theorists would have perished on barren soil but for the organizers who popularized and propagated their views." However, a different perspective was offered by Women's Review of Books contributor Marie Shear, who felt: "Critchlow uncritically reports other material that, as a historian, he might have taken more care to corroborate." Shear went on to observe that "readers who want to understand why many conservative women see feminists as perverted and sinister will find that an exploration of such views, or a comparison of them with those of conservative men, lies outside the book's scope." From a non-political point of view, Warner also found the biography lacking, noting that "there are no answers to be found [in the book] … because … Critchlow has no particular feel for [Schlafly] as a woman." Warner further observed: "More generally, [Critchlow] lacks critical distance and scholarly skepticism." The same reviewer found Critchlow "particularly indulgent of Schlafly and her Christian conservative allies when they engage in quite un-Christian behavior."

A more positive assessment of Critchlow's biography was offered by International Social Science Review contributor Barry D. Friedman: "Donald T. Critchlow offers a history of the Republican party from the 1950s to the present using the noteworthy career of Phyllis Schlafly as the source of milestone events that bring the story to life." Friedman went on to conclude: "Critchlow's eloquent style will hold the interest of anyone who is interested in the Republican party and the conservative movement of the past half century as he reveals Schlafly's unique influence on American politics."



Booklist, February 1, 1999, Mary Carroll, review of Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Government in Modern America, p. 946; September 15, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of Enemies of the State: Personal Stories from the Gulag, p. 184.

International Social Science Review, spring-summer, 2006, Barry D. Friedman, review of Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade, p. 77.

Isis, March, 2003, Hunter Crowther-Heyck, review of Intended Consequences, p. 197.

Kliatt, March, 2004, Ann Hart, review of Enemies of the State, p. 38.

Nation, March 3, 1997, Joanne Jacobson, review of Studebaker: The Life and Death of an American Corporation, p. 32.

National Review, November 7, 2005, Kate O'Beirne, review of Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism, p. 50.

New York Times Book Review, January 29, 2006, Judith Warner, "She Changed America," review of Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism.

Publishers Weekly, July 18, 2005, review of Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism, p. 195.

Women's Review of Books, May-June, 2006, Marie Shear, review of Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism, p. 29.


Crisis Magazine, (May 9, 2006), Joan Frawley Desmond, review of Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism.

FrontPage Magazine, (October 12, 2005), Jamie Glazov, "Frontpage Interview: Donald T. Critchlow."

Saint Louis University, Department of History Web site, (March 19, 2007), "Donald T. Critchlow."