Women and Politics in 20th-Century America

This course examines the struggles and successes of American women fighting for equality in American politics, life, and culture, from the movement for suffrage through campaigns for fair wages. Led by historian Linda Gordon, participants will explore grassroots political activism, landmark court decisions, significant achievements in the arts, and the intersection of work on behalf of women’s rights in the United States with other galvanizing movements for equality at home and abroad. The course also considers the evolving role of gender in mediating political discourse and social relations in the United States, and studies important distinctions in activism and opportunity shaped by race, geography, economics, and marriage.

Read the course outline here and listen to a history teacher introduce the course below.


Please create a free K–12 student account. Note: Only K–12 logged-in students will be able to access the registration form.


  • Twenty-six video sessions led by Professor Linda Gordon
  • A certificate of completion for 12 hours of course time

Readings: Recommended readings related to the course are listed in the Resources link on the course page. You are not required to read or purchase any print materials. Quizzes are based on the content of the recordings rather than the readings.

Course Access: After registering, you may access your course by logging in and visiting your “My Courses” link.


Linda Gordon is professor emerita of history at New York University. Her research focuses on the social and political history of the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, though her list of published books covers a wide range of topics. Since 1976 Professor Gordon has written on social turmoil in sixteenth-century Ukraine, family violence, single mothers and welfare, the Arizona orphan abduction, Dorothea Lange, the history of contraception in the United States, and the Klu Klux Klan. In 2018, Gordon wrote a biography of Inge Morath, a traveler, artist, and one of the first women to join the Magnum Agency.


Robyn Spencer is an associate professor of history, American studies, and women’s and gender studies at Lehman College, City University of New York. Her work focuses on post–World War II Black social protests, urban and working-class radicalism, and gender. In her first monograph, The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland (2016), Spencer uses an eclectic range of primary sources to examine how internal politics in conjunction with political repression by the FBI shaped the growth and breakup of the organization. She also underscores the narratives of women who played a significant role in the development of the Black Panther Party and the overall Black Power movement.

The views expressed in this course are those of Dr. Linda Gordon and Dr. Robyn Spencer.