Winning Woman Suffrage One Step at a Time: Social Movements and the Logic of the Legislative Process*


Social Movements, Legislative Process, Woman Suffrage


We describe a theory of legislative logic. This logic is based on the observation that each succeeding stage of the legislative process has increasingly stringent rules and becomes more consequential. This logic unevenly distributes the influence of social movements across the legislative process. Social movements should have less influence at later stages where stringent requirements are more likely to exhaust limited resources and where the consequentiality of action will cause legislators to revoke their support. We apply the theory to a study of state-level woman suffrage legislation. We find that legislators responded to suffragists by bringing the issue of woman suffrage to the legislative forum, but once suffrage bills reached the voting stage, differences in social movement tactics and organization did not have as great an impact.

Original Publication Citation

King, Brayden G, Marie Cornwall, and Eric C. Dahlin. 2005. “Winning Woman Suffrage One Step at a Time: Constitutional Revision and the Logic of the Legislative Process.” Social Forces 83:1211-1234

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Social Forces (Oxford Academic)



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor