Strategic Frame Amplification in the U.S. Woman Suffrage Movements


  • The second and third authors both contributed equally to the work, and their names are listed alphabetically.

Direct all correspondence to Holly McCammon, Department of Sociology, Vanderbilt University, Garland Hall, Room 201, Nashville, TN 37235: e-mail: holly.mccammon@vanderbilt.edu.


US. woman suffragists routinely utilized two types of arguments in their demands for voting rights: justice and reform. The former argument held that women should vote because they were men's equals and therefore should have political rights equal to those of men. Reform arguments stated that women should have the ballot because women, given their unique womanly experiences and perspectives, would bring a unique contribution to politics, making society a more humane place. Although social movement scholars have increasingly studied the framing work of movement activists, few systematic studies of framing activity exist. In this work we examine the circumstances that led the suffragists to amplify one or the other of these motivational frames. We find that the suffragists were quite strategic in their choice of frames, targeting particular audiences and taking advantage of cultural opportunities for frame resonance. We find only limited evidence that their frames were driven by the collective identity of particular groups in the movement.