Author

Erika A. Falk

Date of Award

2001

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Abstract

This dissertation is an analysis of the press coverage of seven women who ran for President between 1872 and 1999 (Victoria Woodhull-1872, Belva Lockwood-1884, Margaret Chase Smith-1964, Shirley Chisholm-1972, Pat Schroeder-1987, Lenora Fulani-1988, and Elizabeth Dole-1999). I compared the press coverage of the women to that of the most equivalent man in the same race by analyzing the highest circulating paper in each candidate’s home state in the year they ran and the New York Times. Results indicated that men received more overall coverage and more issue coverage. The women had more biographical coverage and quotations and were more likely to be described physically and as having emotions. They were also more likely to have their family mentioned, and to be referred to by their first names. The women were repeatedly framed as “firsts,” and as representing women. Three arguments were regularly presented against women in office: That they are unnatural in the political sphere, incompetent (usually because they are perceived as being too emotional and unable to handle crises), and unviable as candidates. I present the research in the context of existing literature that establishes that language and the media can effect how people perceive and act in the world.

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