McDonnell’s 1989 views on working women are also probably being distorted. In the section of the thesis at issue, he is arguing that government assistance for child care go to parents whether or not they use commercial day care. “Further expenditures” on subsidies for day care, he wrote, “would be used to subsidize a dynamic new trend of working women and feminists that is ultimately detrimental to the family by entrenching a status-quo of non-parental primary nurture of children.” Maybe he was saying that working women as such were “detrimental” to the family. But from my skim of the thesis I don’t see that message anywhere else in it—and remember that McDonnell wasn’t trying to finesse anything in it. (McDonnell’s fifteen-point plan says nothing about discouraging women from working.) If, on the other hand, McDonnell was saying that it would be detrimental to families to encourage them to use day care rather than helping them make their own decisions, then he was right.
Let’s review: When McDonnell wrote that the “dynamic new trend of working women and feminists that is ultimately detrimental to the family by entrenching a status-quo of non-parental primary nurture of children,” he didn’t really mean it. What he really meant was that encouraging them to use day-care was detrimental.
Obviously, this doesn’t begin to make sense. It’s also worth noting that the notion that women working outside the home was harmful was hardly some crazy idea that McDonnell couldn’t possibly have embraced. In 1989, it was in fact a common feature in the conservative reaction to the changes in women’s roles that occurred during the 1970s.