Mothers of Conservatism tells the story of 1950s southern Californian housewives who shaped the grassroots right in the two decades following World War II. Michelle Nickerson describes how red-hunting homemakers mobilized activist networks, institutions, and political consciousness in local education battles, and she introduces a generation of women who developed political styles and practices around their domestic routines. From the conservative movement's origins in the early fifties through the presidential election of 1964, Nickerson documents how women shaped conservatism from the bottom up, out of the fabric of their daily lives and into the agenda of the Republican Party.
Female activists formed study groups, gave lectures, published newsletters, hosted public events, and opened conservative bookstores, bringing Cold War geopolitics into their local communities. Frightened that communism was infecting the minds of their children through the public education system, these women took it upon themselves to address potential threats. This sense of duty, ironically, removed many of them from the house for numerous hours of the week to perform political work, and their activities contributed to a feminine ideal that Nickerson calls the "populist housewife"--a political model of womanhood that emphasized common sense, lack of pretension, and spirituality.
A unique history of the American conservative movement, Mothers of Conservatism shows how housewives got out of the house and discovered their political capital.