Specialists and Generalists: Learning Strategies in the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1866-1918

Brayden G. King, Marie Cornwall

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

16 Scopus citations


We use collective learning theory to explain social movement strategic outcomes. Three movement strategies are conceptualized: insider, outsider, and generalist strategies. Generalist strategies are a combination of insider and outsider tactics. Movements learn in three main ways: retention of existing knowledge, adaptation based on past experiences, and via diffusion processes. Utilizing available data about the use of insider and outsider tactics in the state-level fight for woman suffrage, we find that state suffrage movements learned through retention of previously used strategies, adaptation in the face of major defeat, and through the diffusion of outsider tactics. Social movements exhibit structural inertia. Movement activists stick to what they know, unless they face a major defeat. Movement strategies are more complex and more flexible than suggested by the current focus in the social movement literature, suggesting the need to rethink the insider-outsider dichotomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationResearch in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change
EditorsPatrick Coy
Number of pages34
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005

Publication series

NameResearch in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change
ISSN (Print)0163-786X

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'Specialists and Generalists: Learning Strategies in the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1866-1918'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this