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6/12/2006 Linfield professor collaborates on book

McMINNVILLE - Communication traits of female politicians is the focus of a book by two Oregon speech professors.

"Women's Political Discourse: A Twenty-first Century Perspective" is co-authored by Brenda DeVore Marshall, professor of theatre and communication arts at Linfield College, and Molly Mayhead, professor of speech communication at Western Oregon University. It was published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. in October.

The text profiles women in highly visible political offices and highlights their communication strategies. Following an overview of how women communicate politically from the early 20th century, the book features select women governors, representatives and senators of the past several decades, from Jeannette Rankin - the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives - to Hillary Rodham Clinton. It includes an investigation of women's political communication techniques and lists of the women governmental leaders of the 20th and the 21st centuries.

"Women's political discourse has changed since scholars first began studying it in the 1950s," said Marshall, a member of the Linfield faculty since 1987. "There is a more collaborative approach to decision-making. There's a need for more women in politics."

Looking at transcripts from speeches and newsletters, Marshall and Mayhead compared and contrasted what women in office are truly saying. They found that women tend to govern differently from men, with different agendas than their male counterparts.

"With more women in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, there is increased discussion about topics traditionally seen as women's issues, such as healthcare and education," Marshall added. "Women are also bringing a more feminine perspective to other issues like war."

Ultimately, these topics are not just women's issues but human issues that need to be discussed in political contexts. Women in politics bring their perspectives to discussions and open the debates to more diverse and inclusive viewpoints, Marshall said.

"Men and women bring unique outlooks to the table and all of these perspectives are necessary for informed and effective decision making and governing," she added.

Marshall, last year's recipient of the Samuel I. Graf Faculty Achievement Award honoring outstanding faculty members, said class discussions and student observations inspired parts of the book. As a result, she has credited students in the acknowledgements. Although written by college professors, the text is both scholarly and accessible. It appeals to not only undergraduate students, but also the general public.

Marshall and Mayhead spent 18 months compiling the text, and it's not their first collaboration. In 2000, they co-edited "Navigating Boundaries: The Rhetoric of Women Governors," a collection of essays written by themselves and colleagues around the country. They are now working on two companion volumes: "Telling Political Lives: The Rhetorical Autobiographies of Women Leaders in the United States" and "Telling Political Lives II: The Rhetorical Autobiographies of International Women Leaders."