"Out of the Parlors and into the Streets": The Changing Tactical Repertoire of the U.S. Women' Suffrage Movements

H. J. McCammon

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McCammon, H. J. (1). "Out of the Parlors and into the Streets": The Changing Tactical Repertoire of the U.S. Women' Suffrage Movements. Social Forces, 81(3), 787–818. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/sof.2003.0037

demonstrations , Marching , occupying space , protests , suffrage movement

Little empirical research exists on major changes in the strategies and tactics of social movements, but some researchers argue that organizational readiness and political opportunities produce such changes. This article examines the circumstances that led some state woman suffrage movements to use a bold new tactic, the suffrage parade, beginning in the early twentieth century. An event-history analysis reveals that organizational readiness and political opportunities had little to do with change in the suffragists' strategic approach. Rather, the change occurred when movements consisted of a diverse assortment of organizations, when movement organizations were less centrally structured, when conflict existed among movement members, when movements engaged in fundraising, and when the suffragists had recently experienced significant political defeat. The model of tactical change presented here better explains the impetuses for such a shift than do earlier explanations.

Main finding
This article explores the reason behind the shift in the women's suffrage movement’s tactical strategy, which took the form of taking the movement to the public sphere in the form of street parades. The tactic emerged because of a combination of internal conflict, diverse organizations, a lack of central structure, fundraising tactics, and political defeat. Organizational readiness and political opportunities did not have much influence on the adoption of street parades. By taking to the street, members of the suffrage movement could directly interact with citizens, creating social interaction and allowing the members to occupy public spaces. Specific qualities of a movement’s organization such as organizational diversity, decentralization and conflict in the movement organizational field are more important than organizational readiness in spurring new tactics.

Description of method used in the article
Using discrete-time-event analysis, the author examined annual measures for 44 states in the United States. Alaska and Hawaii were excluded due to a lack of data and their territory status during the time period analyzed (1905–1919). In Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, there were few instances of suffrage activism because women had full suffrage prior to 1905. The first parades were recorded in 1908, leading to a federal suffrage amendment being passed in 1919 by Congress. Information on the street parades came from a content analysis of over 650 secondary documents on state suffrage movements and from archival materials for six states.

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