Editor's note: Catherine Allgor is a history professor at the University of California at Riverside and an adviser to the National Women's History Museum. Her latest book is "The Queen of America: Mary Cutts's Life of Dolley Madison" (University of Virginia Press, 2012)
(CNN) - There was a time when first ladies and first lady hopefuls merely stood smiling beside their blue-suited husbands, waving to cheering crowds. Their "press" was limited to an article in a women's magazine, with perhaps a few recipes.
Now they are scheduled and much-anticipated speakers at the Big Game, the main event for one night of the party conventions - as Michelle Obama will be Tuesday evening.
In this piece, we'll see the video highlights of speeches by candidates' wives in the past 20 years and analyze their meaning.
Speeches by spouses are one of the many aspects of American electoral politics that puzzle the rest of the world. As a reporter from VG (The Way of the World), the largest newspaper in Norway, was heard to ask, "What do these women do that their men can't?"
In many western European contests, the voting public doesn't even know the names of the candidates' families - but that's never been true in America. From the first, presidents' wives have been the focus of the public eye, much to the chagrin of Martha Washington, who never wanted her husband to be the leader of the new republic. Abigail Adams, wife of the second president, John Adams, had no time for "the people" and their curiosity about the family that led the nation. It would not be until Dolley Madison became the figurehead for her reticent and uncharismatic husband, James, that a new role for the first lady was born.
Read Catherine Allgor's full column
By Steve Kastenbaum, CNN
Charlotte, North Carolina (CNN) – It began 40 years ago with one delegate from Buffalo. Now, at the Democratic National Convention this week, the call for a federal law recognizing same-sex marriages will become part of the party's official platform.
Madeline Davis was one of only two openly gay delegates at the 1972 Democratic Convention in Miami Beach. In a ground breaking moment, she identified herself at the podium as a lesbian and asked her fellow delegates to adopt language calling for equal rights for homosexuals.
[2:29] “We’ve done so much since that. We’ve done so much picketing and so much convincing and had so many meetings and… it’s just a lifetime of work and for some reason my major feeling about this is I’m really tired. I’m really tired.”
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Pfizer's most senior physician is Chief Medical Officer Dr Freda Lewis-Hall, a psychiatrist who describes her job as "a pinnacle role:" One that combines "the broadest potential impact" with "the deepest possible satisfaction."
Lewis-Hall grew up living with an uncle whose legs were ruined by polio. His carers, and his approach to life, inspired her to pursue a career as a physician.
Read the full story
By Parija Kavilanz @CNNMoney
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - April Senase is at the front end of a potential job boom: women in manufacturing.
Senase, 35, is a trailblazer. She has worked numerous factory jobs for 13 years - often as the first, or only, woman on the production floor. She makes nearly $40 an hour, with overtime, in her day job running high-tech machinery at a factory that makes specialized industrial parts.
And in March, she took a second job as the first female instructor in computer-aided machining at Symbol Job Training Inc., a trade school that sits in the heart of a busy manufacturing hub in Skokie, Ill.
In her new role, she hopes to inspire more women to follow her lead.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, about a third of all manufacturing workers today are women.
But manufacturing is rapidly being transformed from a labor-intensive field to a high-tech one. The change, and a nascent pick up in domestic manufacturing, has created thousands of factory jobs nationwide that, experts say, more women are starting to seek out.
"Women are very detailed-oriented," said Senase. "You need that approach in manufacturing today because the work is so much more precise."
Read the full story on CNNMoney
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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