Kelsy Kretschmer, Ph.D.

Faculty Scholar

Kelsy Kretschmer holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Irvine, an M.A. in sociology from the University of California, Irvine, and a B.A. in sociology from the Oregon State University.

Dr. Kretschmer’s work focuses on the boundaries within and between organizations in the context of the contemporary women’s movement in the United States. She is primarily concerned with how new organizations emerge from existing ones, and how this relationship affects the structure of the continuing organizations, and the structure of the broader social movement they continue to share. In pursuing these interests, she has studied the National Organization for Women and the organizations it has spun off, including Women’s Equity Action League, Feminists for Life, Legal Momentum, and Human Rights for Women, to name a few. Based on a variety of data, including interviews, archival materials, and secondary sources, she has developed a model for understanding the sometimes surprising outcomes for the parent-breakaway relationship. This project provides useful insights into the coalition politics of social movements, where a breakaway organization’s ability to cooperate with its parent will affect the success and public reach of the broader movement. It also contributes to the sociology of gender and inequality by asking how inter-organizational relationships shape feminism as both an ideology and a political movement in the United States.

Dr. Kretschmer has presented parts of this project in a variety of forums, including the American Sociological Association, Pacific Sociological Association, and the Young Scholars in Social Movements conference at Notre Dame University. Her work has been published in Sociological Perspectives and the American Behavioral Scientist. Her article, “Contested Loyalties: Dissident Identity Organizations, Institutions, and Social Movements” was recognized by the Pacific Sociological Association as a Distinguished contribution to Sociological Perspectives in 2010. In this article, Kretschmer compares two organizations with origins in NOW: Catholics for a Free Choice, a pro-choice Catholic organization, and Feminists for Life, a pro-life feminist organization. The central question in this article is, why has Catholics for a Free Choice been more successful than Feminists for Life in bridging two ostensibly incongruent identities? Because feminism is far less monolithic than the Catholic Church, we would expect that Feminists for Life (FFL) would have greater success in building partnerships with other feminist groups, but, surprisingly, FFL has not done so. While feminism may lack the central authority and structure of Catholicism, there is consensus among movement actors about abortion rights. For FFL, abortion rights became a litmus test for exclusion from the feminist movement. Now, FFL works mainly with religious pro-life groups and while this decision was necessary, it has further hurt its feminist credibility. She also find that despite the Catholic Church’s centralized authority, its tradition of dissent gives some measure of credibility to Catholics for a Free Choice and provides it with a community of other dissident Catholic organizations to partner with.

Dr. Kretschmer has also taught a variety of courses, including Political Sociology, Introduction to Sociology, and Social Problems. While at Wellesley College, she is teaching a course on the status of women and the women’s movement in the U.S. for the Writing Program.

Phone: 781-283-3406
Fax: 781-283-3646







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