In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Women’s Legal and Constitutional Rights

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Textbooks
  • Anthologies
  • Citizenship
  • Social Movements for Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights
  • Feminist Theories of Equality, Difference, and Subordination
  • Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Doctrine
  • Marriage
  • Reproductive Rights
  • Women’s Rights in The Welfare State
  • Women’s Rights in the Carceral State
  • Title IX and the Meaning of Sex

Political Science Women’s Legal and Constitutional Rights
Kathleen Sullivan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 November 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 November 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0297


The right to vote, equal protection under the law, and the right of privacy are the primary constitutional provisions that are pertinent to women as women. Formal recognition of these rights has failed to achieve full equality for women in the United States, however. The critical social and institutional analyses provided by political scientists can explain the failure of women’s rights to be realized. Adjudication of rights can be found in Supreme Court doctrine, but political scientists routinely look beyond the courts to consider that rights are political in their making, their operation, and their reception. Formal constitutional provisions were the product of social movements and political organization. The social hierarchies that impeded coalitions likewise inflected those victories with ongoing inequality between women, as well as inequality between men and women. Once achieved, those rights were shaped by ongoing legal mobilization, either to expand or to limit their reach. Even where the legal system legitimately sought to protect women’s rights, inadvertent institutional arrangements and practices have served to reproduce conditions of inequality. State-building and policy, then, are important in understanding the lived experience of rights. Finally, rights alone are unlikely to be honored if women lack the standing to be considered as legitimate exercisers of those rights. For that reason, scholars refer to rights in terms of citizenship, in which rights are protected and the polity recognizes the rights-holder as worthy of the claim.


Political science journals that focus primarily on women and gender are Politics, Groups, and Identities, Politics & Gender, and the Journal of Women, Politics & Policy. Political science journals that regularly feature work on the constitutional rights of women include Political Research Quarterly and Studies in American Political Development. The study of women’s constitutional rights is inevitably interdisciplinary, and political scientists studying this topic publish in interdisciplinary journals, such as The Good Society, Law and History Review, Law & Social Inquiry, and Law & Society Review.

  • The Good Society. 1995–.

    Publishes on behalf of the Committee for the Political Economy of the Good Society (PEGS). It occasionally publishes special issues on constitutionalism that regularly incorporate issues of gender.

  • Journal of Women, Politics & Policy. 2005–.

    Formerly Women & Politics (1980–2004), the Journal of Women, Politics & Policy explores the role of women in the political process, with examination of the effects of policies on women’s lives and women’s rights.

  • Law and History Review. 1983–.

    Publishes studies of legal history, with works by legal historians and law professors, as well as political scientists.

  • Law & Social Inquiry. 1988–.

    Law & Social Inquiry is sponsored by the American Bar Foundation, with scholarship from law and the social sciences.

  • Law & Society Review. 1966–.

    Law & Society Review is a journal of the Law & Society Association featuring the work of socio-legal scholars.

  • Perspectives on Politics. 2003–.

    A journal of the American Political Science Association committed to providing “a space for broad and synthetic discussion within the political science profession,” as well as between the profession and the public.

  • Political Research Quarterly. 1948–.

    Sponsored by the Western Political Science Association, Political Research Quarterly features research on women and politics, as well as feminist theory and women’s citizenship.

  • Politics, Groups, and Identities. 2013–.

    Politics, Groups, and Identities is a journal of the Western Political Science Association that began publishing in 2013.

  • Politics & Gender. 2005–.

    Politics & Gender is a journal of the Women and Politics section of the American Political Science Association. Other political science journals feature gender as a regular course of study, and these journals may offer closer analysis of constitutionalism and legal issues.

  • Studies in American Political Development. 1986–.

    Studies in American Political Development regularly includes accounts of women and gender issues in its studies of state-building.

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