This study investigates women’s under-representation in national legislative elections and the gendered legacies embedded in Brazil’s electoral system and party dynamics. Focusing on the historical period prior to the 1996 implementation of a quota law, this article applies a feminist historical institutionalist approach to identify institutions and actors influencing women’s representation. Brazil’s electoral rules for legislative elections, that is, an open-list proportional representation system, remained surprisingly stable throughout periods of regime change and institutional uncertainty in the 20th century. It was not until the return to democracy and the 1986 constituent election that women were able to carve some space in Brazil’s National Congress. This research argues that the relaxing of rules dictating the creation of political parties and the strengthening of women’s movements in the prior decade were influential in creating a propitious moment for increasing the presence of women in national legislative politics.
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To cite this article: dos Santos, P. (2021) Gendered path dependency: women’s representation in 20th-century Brazil, European Journal of Politics and Gender, vol 4,
no 3, 441–458, DOI: 10.1332/251510821X16236819716267