Rymph, Catherine E.

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Rymph, Catherine E.


Education: Indiana University, B.A., 1988; University of Iowa, Ph.D., 1998.


Office—Department of History, University of Missouri, 101 Read Hall, Columbia, MO 65211-7500. E-mail—[email protected]


University of Iowa, Iowa City, instructor; University of Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany, Fulbright lecturer; University of Missouri, Columbia, associate professor of history, beginning 2000.


Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism from Suffrage through the Rise of the New Right, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2006.


Catherine E. Rymph taught at the University of Iowa and University of Greifswald in Germany before becoming an associate professor at the University of Missouri. She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses that focus on twentieth-century America, America in the period between World War I and World War II, the social history of women in the United States, and the political history of women in the United States. Her research also includes an investigation of the history of the foster-care system in the United States.

Rymph is the author of Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism from Suffrage through the Rise of the New Right, a study of the subject during the period from women's suffrage until the evolution of second-wave feminism. She explores the opposition to feminism by conservatives, particularly in the Republican Party, and the success of the Right in resisting change. Rymph notes that after women won the vote in 1920, activist women were faced with the decision of whether they should attempt to integrate the political parties with all the privileges that men already enjoyed, or whether they should organize as a group unto themselves. For half a century women were appointed to posts that were created to encourage other women to enter, and become active in, the Republican Party. Women worked for equal representation on the Republican National Committee (NRC), and by 1929 they achieved that status in eighteen states, but women were appointed by men, not by other women they would represent.

More women mobilized on their own in a manner that more closely resembled presuffrage activism. Women knew themselves to be different from men, in that they were less interested in promoting themselves, had strong moral values, and felt they were charged with preserving the morals of the country. The first national club was the National League of Republican Colored Women, founded in 1924. The first such club for white women wasn't formed for another decade. The clubs provided a safe environment within which women could find their political voices.

Following the poor showing of Republicans in the elections of 1936, the NRC appointed former Maine legislator Marion Martin assistant chairman in charge of women's activities. She was charged with bringing together the independent groups and to turn the club women into party women. Over the next decade, Martin did just that, recruiting thousands of women volunteers upon whom the party depended to counter the growth of the Democratic Party, which was heavily supported by labor, following World War II. She was unable to discourage the morality component, however, and the National Federation of Republican Women (NFRW) not only pulled away from the mainstream party, it also frequently opposed it. The Federation backed Barry Goldwater for president in 1964, and three years later, in a fight for control of the Federation, moderates prevailed. It was then that the conservative right-wing female leaders, such as Phyllis Schlafly, began the grassroots movement that would eventually lead to the conservative takeover of the party. Republican women of the 1970s could align themselves with Schlafly's Eagle Forum, one of the main platforms of which was the opposition of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), or Republican feminists such as Jill Ruckelshaus, Elly Peterson, and Mary Louis Smith, who worked inside the party and through the Republican Women's Task Force (RWTF) of the National Women's Political Caucus.

Susan Hartmann reviewed Republican Women for the Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000 Web site. Hartmann wrote: "Rymph carefully analyzes both how feminists were able to make significant gains in female participation and in the party platform and why Republican feminism was so short-lived. In the end, the women who gained most power in the party formed a third type of partisan women, representing neither the ‘feminist consciousness of the RWTF [nor] the female consciousness of Schlafly's Eagle Forum.’ … Rather, the women who rose in party ranks, such as Mary Matalin, expressed no gender identity at all and espoused no specifically female causes." Hartmann commented that this study is a "broadly researched and judiciously argued work."



Choice, December, 2006, R.A. Standish, review of Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism from Suffrage through the Rise of the New Right, p. 705.

Historian, fall, 2007, Mary C. Brennan, review of Republican Women, p. 559.

Journal of American History, December, 2006, Francesca Morgan, review of Republican Women, p. 958.

Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, June, 2007, Leon Ginsberg, review of Republican Women, p. 217.

Journal of Southern History, February, 2007, Elizabeth Gillespie McRae, review of Republican Women, p. 214.


H-Net Reviews,http://www.h-net.org/ (February 16, 2008), Aaron L. Haberman, review of Republican Women.

University of Missouri Web site,http://www.missouri.edu/ (February 16, 2008), brief biography.

Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000,http://womhist.alexanderstreet.com/reviewrepublicanwomen.htm/ (February 16, 2008), Susan Hartmann, review of Republican Women.