A broad-based franchise - that is, an inclusive policy for who elects leaders - is fundamental to the spirit of democracy in the twenty-first century. Yet the world's earliest democratic constitutions in Europe and the Americas either made no provision for women's participation, or explicitly prohibited it in their founding documents. Women were barred from the franchise even in those countries that went the furthest in guaranteeing men political equality, such as France and the United States. Things began to change in the 189os, when women around the world began to vote alongside men. What explains this sea-change in women's rights? Were women agents of their own political emancipation, or did politicians preemptively grant women voting rights in a bid for electoral success? Studying the political inclusion of women around the turn of the twentieth century, this dissertation argues that both electoral politics and the ordinary strategies of women's movements explain the extension of female suffrage.
The argument is simple. Politicians care about getting re-elected and so will only support reform if they think it serves that end. But even if politicians believe they can win the votes of the excluded group, they will not deviate from the status quo unless they anticipate losing future elections without female voters. Hence voting rights reform is more likely to occur in highly competitive political environments. In combining these insights, I construct an intuitive theory of the electoral conditions under which franchise extensions should be forthcoming, predicting that vulnerable political parties that foresee an electoral advantage will push for reform. Along with electoral vulnerability and the political preferences of the excluded group, organized political movements add a critical third dimension to this story. Political movements can intervene in the electoral arena, either by changing politician's beliefs about how the disfranchised will vote, or by changing the relative strength of competing political parties.
I substantiate this theory through a comparative historical study of women's suffrage reform in England, France and the United States. Drawing on multiple forms of evidence, including large-n statistical analyses, roll-call analysis, close reading of legislative debates, and primary research into the interactions between suffrage organizers and elected politicians, I show how male representatives were induced by party competition, preference convergence, and organized activism to restrict women's access to political decision-making or to grant women the right to vote.
Whereas most recent scholarship on franchise reform has avoided the subject of female voting rights, determining a priori that it is distinct from, and thus not comparable to, male enfranchisement, my research bridges this gap by highlighting the semi-democratic context in which most moments of voting rights reform have taken place. This re-formulation allows women to emerge as an interesting and relevant group for comparative analysis, and provides an analytical structure for future work to examine the enfranchisement of other groups in a semi-democratic context, including minority groups and segments of the non-ruling classes.
|Advisor:||Rosenbluth, Frances McCall|
|School Location:||United States -- Connecticut|
|Source:||DAI-A 76/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Economics, Political science, Sociology|
|Keywords:||Democratization, Electrical competition, Franchise Extention, Women in Politics, Women's Suffrage Movements|
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