The Creation of Women’s CaucusesAnna Mitchell Mahoney
How do women strategically make their mark on state legislatures? Anna Mitchell Mahoney’s book traces the development of women’s state legislative caucuses and the influence both gender and party have on women’s ability to organize collectively. She provides a comprehensive analysis of how and why women organize around their gender identity in state legislatures—or why they do not.
Women Take Their Place in State Legislatures includes a quantitative analysis of institutional-level variables and caucus existence in all 50 states. Case studies of caucus attempts in New Jersey, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Iowa between 2006 and 2010 examine attempts at creating women’s caucuses that succeeded or failed, and why. Mahoney’s interviews with 180 state legislators and their staff explore the motivations of caucus creators and participants. Ultimately, she finds that women’s organizing is contextual; it demonstrates the dynamic nature of gender.
Mahoney also provides insights into broad questions regarding gendered institutions, collective action, and political party governance. Women Take Their Place in State Legislatures fills a lacuna in the evaluation of women in government.
“Anna Mitchell Mahoney’s study of women’s caucuses fills an important gap in the literature on state legislatures and identity caucuses. Drawing on a rich body of qualitative data and 180 personal interviews with legislators, Mahoney elaborates the factors—both social and legislative—that motivate the women who join and lead these caucuses. Her careful exploration of the emergence and demise of women’s legislative caucuses also underscores the divisive partisanship that has come to dominate state legislatures as it has the U.S. Congress. Women Take Their Place in State Legislatures offers important lessons for students, scholars, and practitioners alike.”
—Cindy Simon Rosenthal, former Director of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center and Presidential Professor Emeritus, University of Oklahoma, and author of When Women Lead: Integrative Leadership in State Legislatures
“Women Take Their Place in State Legislatures is a strong, interesting, original work that fits perfectly within the trajectory of research on women and legislatures. Mahoney’s case studies of caucus formation are particularly compelling, completely unique, well-executed, and rich in detail. Her comparative design offers real ideas about why caucus formation succeeds and fails.”
—Tracy Osborn, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Iowa, and author of How Women Represent Women: Political Parties, Gender, and Representation in the State Legislatures
"In addition to important documentation of women’s caucuses and where they have emerged, Mahoney offers important theoretical and conceptual contributions to literatures on identity politics, partisanship, and collective action within legislative institutions.... Beyond telling compelling stories about the success or failure of specific caucuses, Women Take Their Place in State Legislatures successfully tells a much larger—and even more broadly applicable—story about the ways in which gender and partisanship significantly shape the patterns, distribution, and exercise of power within our legislative institutions."
— Perspectives on Politics
"Mahoney’s manuscript provides numerous insights into the formation of women’s caucuses in the state legislatures.... (T)horough and well written; it is by far the most comprehensive book on women’s caucuses in the literature....
Mahoney’s work is important in advancing our knowledge of why electing women to political oﬃce is not necessarily an avenue to better policy for women and for understanding why cooperation in institutional settings can be diﬃcult to engender."
— Journal of Women, Politics, and Policy
"Mahoney offers a comprehensive account of the extent to which gender identity has been employed by women legislators when organizing for caucuses, leading to some successes and some failures.... Mahoney analyzes a rich body of data, offering perspectives that we would otherwise not have access to.... (T)he study contributes to the broader scholarship on collective action and political opportunity by offering a valuable update on the elite women’s movement."
— Politics & Gender
"Mahoney uses a feminist institutional frame and social movements theory to understand when women are successful in establishing formal caucuses. Her work fills an important space in multiple literatures, including legislative organization, state legislatures, and women’s legislative behavior.... The richness of the data and extent of the themes Mahoney finds in her analysis are vast and interesting....
Mahoney’s work is exemplary in providing rich descriptions of caucus attempts."
— Political Science Quarterly
"Mahoney examines the conditions under which women’s caucuses are attempted and established in state legislatures in this work of careful scholarship on the gendered nature of institutions, with some surprising findings.... Mahoney aptly identifies the functions women’s caucuses can play in the representation and inclusion of women in state legislatures, as well as some of the ironies attendant on them.... Mahoney makes a compelling argument in her conclusion for her study’s relevance—looking at women’s caucuses is a lens on the gendered nature of institutions like parties and legislatures, her cases reveal patterns within times of intensified polarization, and their formation reveals informal rules within legislatures."
— Gender and Society