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U.S. women suffragists demonstrating for the right to vote, February 1913

Women's suffrage is the right of women to vote and historically includes the economic and political reform movement aimed at extending suffrage to women, on an equal basis to those for men and without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax or marital status.

The movement's modern origins are attributed to 18th century France. Of currently existing independent countries, New Zealand was the first to give women the right to vote in 1893 when it was a self-governing British colony.[1] Similarly, the colony of South Australia enacted legislation giving women the vote in 1894. Places with similar status which granted women the vote include Wyoming Territory (1869). Other possible contenders for first "country" to grant female suffrage include the Corsican Republic, the Isle of Man (1881), the Pitcairn Islands, and Franceville, but some of these had brief existences as independent states and others were not clearly independent. Australia extended this right in 1901 to some women, and then in 1902 to all non-Aboriginal women. Sweden also would be a contestant as the first independent nation to grant women the right to vote. Conditional female suffrage was granted in Sweden during the age of liberty (1718–1771), although this right was restricted and did not apply to women in general.[2]

Voting rights for women were introduced into international law in 1948 when the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As stated in Article 21 “(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

Women’s suffrage is also explicitly stated as a right under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, adopted by the United Nations in 1979.

Eighteen female MPs joined the Turkish Parliament in 1935

Women's suffrage has been granted at various times in various countries throughout the world. In many countries women's suffrage was granted before universal suffrage.

In medieval France and several other European countries, voting for city and town assemblies and meetings was open to the heads of households.

In Sweden, during the age of liberty between 1718 and 1771, women were permitted to vote if they were tax paying guild-members. Women were entitled to vote in the Corsican Republic in 1755 whose Constitution stipulated a national representative assembly elected by all inhabitants over the age of 25, both women (if unmarried or widowed) and men.[citation needed] Women's suffrage was ended when France annexed the island in 1769.

In 1756, Lydia Chapin Taft became the first woman to vote in America.[3] She voted on at least three occasions in an open New England Town Meeting, at Uxbridge, Massachusetts, with the consent of the electorate. This was between 1756 and 1768, during America's colonial period.[4]

Women in New Jersey could vote (with the same property qualifications as for men, although, since married women did not own property in their own right, only unmarried women and widows qualified) under the state constitution of 1776, where the word "inhabitants" was used without qualification of sex or race. New Jersey women, along with "aliens...persons of color, or negroes," lost the vote in 1807, when the franchise was restricted to white males, ostensibly, to combat electoral fraud by simplifying the conditions for eligibility.

Women in Pitcairn Islands could vote from 1838. Various countries, colonies and states granted restricted women's suffrage in the latter half of the nineteenth century, starting with South Australia in 1861. The 1871 Paris Commune granted voting rights to women, but they were taken away with the fall of the Commune and would only be granted again in July 1944 by Charles de Gaulle (at that time most of France—including Paris—was under Nazi occupation; Paris was liberated the following month). The Pacific colony of Franceville, declaring independence in 1889, became the first self-governing nation to practice universal suffrage without distinction of sex or color;[5] however, it soon came back under French and British colonial rule.

The modern movement for women's suffrage originated in France in the 1780s and 1790s, where Antoine Condorcet and Olympe de Gouges advocated women's suffrage in national elections.

Unrestricted women's suffrage in terms of voting rights (women were not initially permitted to stand for election) in a self-governing colony was granted in New Zealand in the early 1890s. Following a movement led by Kate Sheppard, the women's suffrage bill was adopted mere weeks before the general election of 1893.

The self-governing colony of South Australia granted both universal suffrage and allowed women to stand for the colonial parliament in 1895.[6] The Commonwealth of Australia provided this for women in Federal elections from 1902 (except Aboriginal women). The first European country to introduce women's suffrage was the Grand Duchy of Finland. The administrative reforms following the 1905 uprising granted Finnish women the right both to vote (universal and equal suffrage) and to stand for election in 1906. The world's first female members of parliament were also in Finland, when on 1907, 19 women took up their places in the Parliament of Finland as a result of the 1907 parliamentary elections.

Soviet poster celebrates women's right to vote and to be elected.

In the years before World War I, Norway (1913) and Denmark also gave women the right to vote, and it was extended throughout the remaining Australian states. Near the end of the war, various states gave women the right to vote, including Canada, Soviet Russia, Germany and Poland. British women over 30 had the vote in 1918, Dutch women in 1919, and American women in states that had previously denied them suffrage were allowed the vote in 1920. Women in Turkey were granted voting rights in 1926. In 1928, suffrage was extended to all British women on the same terms as men, that is, for persons 21 years old and older. One of the most recent jurisdictions to grant women full equal voting rights was Bhutan in 2008.


Suffrage movements

After selling her home, English activist Emmeline Pankhurst travelled constantly, giving speeches throughout Britain and the United States. One of her most famous speeches, Freedom or death, was delivered in Connecticut in 1913.

The suffrage movement was a very broad one which encompassed women and men with a very broad range of views. One major division, especially in Britain, was between suffragists, who sought to create change constitutionally, and suffragettes, led by Iconic English political activist Emmeline Pankhurst, who in 1903 formed the Women's Social and Political Union.[7] who were more militant. There was also a diversity of views on a 'woman's place'. Some who campaigned for women's suffrage felt that women were naturally kinder, gentler, and more concerned about weaker members of society, especially children. It was often assumed that women voters would have a civilising effect on politics and would tend to support controls on alcohol, for example. They believed that although a woman's place was in the home, she should be able to influence laws which impacted upon that home. Other campaigners felt that men and women should be equal in every way and that there was no such thing as a woman's 'natural role'. There were also differences in opinion about other voters. Some campaigners felt that all adults were entitled to a vote, whether rich or poor, male or female, and regardless of race. Others saw women's suffrage as a way of canceling out the votes of lower class or non-white men.

The most current ongoing movement for women’s suffrage is in Saudi Arabia. The issue branches into the complicated role of modern Saudi women. (See Women's rights in Saudi Arabia and Human rights in Saudi Arabia)

Timeline of international women's suffrage

Date listed is the first date women were allowed to participate (by voting) in elections, not the date that women were granted universal suffrage without restrictions.

Note: The table can be sorted alphabetically or chronologically using the Sort none.gif icon.

Country Year Voting age
 Afghanistan 1963 18 years
 Albania 1920 18 years
 Algeria 1962 18 years
 American Samoa 1990 18 years
 Andorra 1970 18 years
 Angola 1975 18 years
 Anguilla 1951 18 years
 Antigua and Barbuda 1951 18 years
 Argentina 1947 18 years
 Armenia 1921 18 years
 Aruba a 18 years
 Australia 1902 18 years
 Austria 1918 16 years
 Azerbaijan 1918 18 years
 Bahamas, The 1960 18 years
 Bahrain 1973 18 years
 Bangladesh 1972 18 years
 Barbados 1950 18 years
 Belarus 1919 18 years
 Belgium 1919/1948(c) 18 years
 Belize 1954 18 years
 Benin 1956 18 years
 Bermuda 1944 18 years
 Bhutan 1953 18 years
 Bolivia 1938 18 years
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 1949 18 years
 Botswana 1965 18 years
 Brazil 1931 16 years
 British Virgin Islands a 18 years
 Brunei 1959 18 years (village elections only)
 Bulgaria 1944 18 years
 Burkina Faso 1958 18 years
 Burma 1922 18 years
 Burundi 1961 18 years
 Cambodia 1955 18 years
 Cameroon 1946 20 years
 Canada 1917 18 years
 Cape Verde 1975 18 years
 Cayman Islands a 18 years
 Central African Republic 1986 21 years
 Chad 1958 18 years
 Chile 1935 18 years
 China 1949 18 years
 Cocos (Keeling) Islands a 18 years
 Colombia 1954 18 years
 Comoros 1956 18 years
 Congo, Democratic Republic of the 1967 18 years
 Congo, Republic of the 1963 18 years
 Cook Islands 1893 18 years
 Costa Rica 1949 18 years
 Côte d'Ivoire 1952 19 years
 Croatia 1945 18 years
 Cuba 1934 16 years
 Cyprus 1960 18 years
 Czechoslovakia 1920 18 years
 Denmark 1915 18 years
 Djibouti 1946 18 years
 Dominica 1951 18 years
 Dominican Republic 1942 18 years
 Ecuador 1924 18 years
 Egypt 1956 18 years
 El Salvador 1939 18 years
 Equatorial Guinea 1963 18 years
 Eritrea 1955 18 years
 Estonia 1918 18 years
 Ethiopia 1955 18 years
 Falkland Islands 2009 18 years
 Faroe Islands a 18 years
 Fiji 1963 21 years
 Finland 1906 18 years
 France 1944 18 years
 French Polynesia a 18 years
 Gabon 1956 21 years
 Gambia, The 1960 18 years
 Georgia 1918 18 years
 Germany 1918 18 years
 Ghana 1954 18 years
 Gibraltar a 18 years
 Greece 1952 18 years
 Greenland a 18 years
 Grenada 1951 18 years
 Guam a 18 years
 Guatemala 1946 18 years
 Guernsey a 18 years
 Guinea 1958 18 years
 Guinea-Bissau 1977 18 years
 Guyana 1953 18 years
 Haiti 1950 18 years
 Holy See No Suffrage for Women limited to cardinals less than 80 years old (male only), b
 Honduras 1955 18 years
 Hong Kong 1949 18 years
 Hungary 1918 18 years
 Iceland 1915 40 years (1920 - 18 years)
 India 1947 18 years
 Indonesia 1945 17 years (married persons regardless of age)
 Iran 1963 18 years
 Iraq 1980 18 years
 Ireland 1918 18 years
 Isle of Man 1881 16 years
 Israel 1948 18 years
 Italy 1946 18 years (except in senatorial elections, where minimum age is 25)
 Jamaica 1944 18 years
 Japan 1945 20 years
 Jersey a 16 years
 Jordan 1974 18 years
 Kazakhstan 1924 18 years
 Kenya 1963 18 years
 Kiribati 1967 18 years
 Korea, North 1946 17 years
 Korea, South 1948 19 years
 Kuwait 2005 21 years
 Kyrgyzstan 1918 18 years
 Laos 1958 18 years
 Latvia 1918 18 years
 Lebanon 1952 21 years
 Lesotho 1965 18 years
 Liberia 1946 18 years
 Libya 1964 18 years
 Liechtenstein 1984 18 years
 Lithuania 1918 18 years
 Luxembourg 1919 18 years
 Macau a 18 years
 Macedonia 1946 18 years
 Madagascar 1959 18 years
 Malawi 1961 18 years
 Malaysia 1957 21 years
 Maldives 1932 21 years
 Mali 1956 18 years
 Malta 1947 18 years
 Marshall Islands 1979 18 years
 Mauritania 1961 18 years
 Mauritius 1956 18 years
 Mayotte a 18 years
 Mexico 1947 18 years
 Micronesia, Federated States of 1979 18 years
 Moldova 1978 18 years
 Monaco 1962 18 years
 Mongolia 1924 18 years
 Montenegro a 18 years
 Montserrat a 18 years
 Morocco 1963 18 years
 Mozambique 1975 18 years
 Namibia 1989 18 years
 Nauru 1968 20 years
 Nepal 1951 18 years
 Netherlands 1919 18 years
 Netherlands Antilles a 18 years
 New Caledonia a 18 years
 New Zealand 1893 18 years
 Nicaragua 1955 16 years
 Niger 1948 18 years
 Nigeria 1958 18 years
 Niue a 18 years
 Norfolk Island a 18 years
 Northern Mariana Islands a 18 years
 Norway 1913 18 years
 Oman 2003 21 years
 Pakistan 1947 18 years
 Palau 1979 18 years
 Panama 1941 18 years
 Papua New Guinea 1964 18 years
 Paraguay 1961 18 years
 Peru 1955 18 years
 Philippines 1937 18 years
 Pitcairn Islands 1838 18 years
 Poland 1918 18 years
 Portugal 1931 18 years
 Puerto Rico 1929 18 years
 Qatar 1997 18 years
 Romania 1938 18 years
 Russia 1917 18 years
 Rwanda 1961 18 years
 Saint Barthelemy a 18 years
 Saint Helena a a
 Saint Kitts and Nevis 1951 18 years
 Saint Lucia 1924 18 years
 Saint Martin a 18 years
 Saint Pierre and Miquelon a 18 years
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1951 18 years
 San Marino 1959 18 years
 São Tomé and Príncipe 1975 18 years
 Saudi Arabia No Suffrage for Women 21 years (male only)
 Senegal 1945 18 years
 Serbia 1945 18 years
 Seychelles 1948 17 years
 Sierra Leone 1961 18 years
 Singapore 1947 21 years
 Slovakia 1920 18 years
 Slovenia 1945 18 years
 Solomon Islands 1974 21 years
 Somalia 1956 18 years
 South Africa 1930 (white women); 1994 (black women) 18 years
 Spain 1931 18 years
 Sri Lanka 1931 18 years
 Sudan 1964 17 years
 Suriname 1948 18 years
 Swaziland 1968 18 years
 Sweden 1919 18 years
 Switzerland 1971 18 years
 Syria 1949 18 years
 Taiwan 1947 20 years
 Tajikistan 1924 18 years
 Tanzania 1959 18 years
 Thailand 1932 18 years
 Timor-Leste 2002 17 years
 Togo 1945 18 years
 Tokelau a 21 years
 Tonga 1960 21 years
 Trinidad and Tobago 1946 18 years
 Tunisia 1959 18 years
 Turkey 1930 18 years
 Turkmenistan 1924 18 years
 Turks and Caicos Islands a 18 years
 Tuvalu 1967 18 years
 Uganda 1962 18 years
 Ukraine 1919 18 years
 United Arab Emirates 2006 a
 United Kingdom 1918 and 1928 30 and then 21 years
 United States 1920 18 years
 Uruguay 1932 18 years
 Uzbekistan 1938 18 years
 Vanuatu 1975 18 years
 Venezuela 1946 18 years
 Vietnam 1946 18 years
 Virgin Islands, U.S. a 18 years
 Wallis and Futuna a 18 years
 Yemen 1967 18 years
 Zambia 1962 18 years
 Zimbabwe 1957 18 years

Note: (a) Data unavailable (b) Voting is restricted to Cardinals, women are forbidden from being Cardinals. (c) Was granted in the constitution in 1919, for communal voting. Suffrage for the provincial councils and the national parliament only came in 1948.

Women's suffrage by country

Australian women's rights were lampooned in this 1887 Melbourne Punch cartoon: A hypothetical female member foists her baby's care on the House Speaker



In the first half of the twentieth century, Indonesia (pre-independence era) was one of the slowest moving countries to gain women’s suffrage. They began their fight in 1905 by introducing municipal councils that included some members elected by a restricted district. Voting rights only went to males that could read and write, which excluded many non-European males. At the time, the literacy rate for males was 11% and for females 2%. The main group who pressured the Indonesian government for women’s suffrage was the Dutch Vereeninging voor Vrouwenkiesrecht (VVV-Women’s Suffrage Association) which was founded in the Netherlands in 1894. They tried to attract Indonesian membership, but had very limited success because the leaders of the organization had little skill in relating to even the educated class of the Indonesians. When they eventually did connect somewhat with women, they failed to sympathize with them and thus ended up alienating many well-educated Indonesians. In 1918 the colony gained its first national representative body called the Volksraad, which still excluded women in voting. In 1935, the colonial administration used its power of nomination to appoint a European woman to the Volksraad. In 1938, the administration introduced the right of women to be elected to urban representative institution, which resulted in some Indonesian and European women entering municipal councils. Eventually, the law became that only European women and municipal councils could vote, which excluded all other women and local councils. September 1941 was when this law was amended and the law extended to women of all races by the Volksraad. Finally, in November 1941, the right to vote for municipal councils was granted to all women on a similar basis to men (with property and educational qualifications).[8]


Although women were allowed to vote in some counties in 1880, women's suffrage was enacted at a national level in 1945.[9]


Women's suffrage in Kuwait was recognised in an amendment to electoral law on May 17, 2005[10]

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka (at that time Ceylon) was the first Asian country to allow voting rights to women over the age of 21 without any restrictions. Since then, women have enjoyed a significant presence in the Sri Lankan political arena. The zenith of this favourable condition to women has been the 1960 July General Elections, in which Ceylon elected the world's first woman Prime Minister, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Her daughter, Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga also became the Prime Minister later in 1994, and the same year she was elected as the Executive President of Sri Lanka, making her the fourth woman in the world to hold the portfolio.



In Denmark women were given the right to vote in municipal elections April 20 1909. However it was not until June 5 1915 that they were allowed to vote in Rigsdag-elections.[11]


13 of the total of 19 female MPs who the first female MPs in the world, elected in Finland's parliamentary elections in 1907.

The predecessor state of modern Finland, The Grand Duchy of Finland was part of the Russian Empire from 1809 to 1917 and enjoyed a high degree of autonomy. The Parliament Act in 1906 established the unicameral parliament of Finland and both women and men were given the right to vote and stand for election. Thus Finnish women became the first in the world to have unrestricted rights both to vote and to stand for parliament. In elections the next year, 19 female MPs, first ones in the world, were elected and women have continued to play a central role in the nation's politics ever since. Miina Sillanpää, a key figure in the worker's movement, became the first female minister in 1926.

Finland's first female President Tarja Halonen was voted into office in 2000 and for a second term in 2006 and women's representation in parliament stands at a 38 %. In 2003 Anneli Jäätteenmäki became the first female Prime Minister of Finland, and in 2007 Matti Vanhanen's second cabinet made history as for the first time there were more women than men in the cabinet of Finland (12 vs. 8).


Suffrage was extended to women in France by the 21 April 1944 ordinance of the French Provisional government.[12][13] The first elections with female participation were the municipal elections of 29 April 1945 and the parliamentary elections of 21 October 1945. "Indigenous Muslim" women in French Algeria had to wait until a 3 July 1958 decree.[14][15]


In Germany, woman suffrage was granted in the new constitution of the Weimar republic in 1919.


The municipal elections of 11 February 1934 were the first held with women voting. However, the right to vote was granted only to women that were literate and aged 30 or older. It was not until 28 May 1952 that suffrage was unconditionally extended to all adult women in Greece, with them voting for the first time in the parliamentary elections of 19 February 1956.


The group working for women’s suffrage in the Netherlands was the Dutch Vereeniging voor Vrouwenkiesrecht (Women’s Suffrage Association), founded in 1894. In 1917 Dutch women became electable in national elections, which led to the election of Suze Groeneweg of the SDAP party in the general elections of 1918. On the 15th of May 1919 a new law was drafted to allow women's suffrage without any limitations. The law was passed and the right to vote could be exercised for the first time in the general elections of 1922.

Voting was made mandatory from 1918, which was not lifted until 1970.


Middle class women could vote for the first time in 1907 (i.e. women coming from families with a certain level of prosperity). Women in general were allowed to vote in local elections from 1910 on, and in 1913 a motion on general suffrage for women was carried unanimously in the Norwegian parliament (Stortinget).


Poland in its first days of independence allowed voting rights to women, as well as rights to be elected, without any restrictions.

Roza Pomerantz-Meltzer was the first woman elected to the Sejm in 1919 as a member of a Zionist party. [16][17]


Carolina Beatriz Ângelo was the first Portuguese woman to vote, in 1911, for the Republican Constitutional Parliament. She argued that she was entitled to do so as she was the head of a household. The law was changed some time later, stating that only male heads of households could vote. In 1931, during the Estado Novo regime, women were allowed to vote for the first time, but only if they had a high school or university degree, while men had only to be able to read and write. In 1946, a new electoral law enlarged the possibility of female vote, but still with some differences regarding men. A law from 1968 claimed to establish "equality of political rights for men and women", but a few electoral rights were reserved for men. After the Carnation Revolution, in 1974, women were granted full and equal electoral rights.


In the Basque provinces of Biscay and Guipúzcoa women who paid a special election tax were allowed to vote and get elected to office till the abolition of the Basque Fueros[citation needed]. Nonetheless the possibility of being elected without the right to vote persisted, hence María Isabel de Ayala was elected mayor in Ikastegieta in 1865. Woman suffrage was officially adopted in 1931 not without the opposition of Margarita Nelken and Victoria Kent, two female MPs (both members of PSOE), who argued that women in Spain and at that time, were far too immature and ignorant to vote responsibly, thus putting at risk the existence of the Second Republic. During the Franco regime only women that were considered heads of household were allowed to vote; in the 'organic democracy type of elections called 'referendums' (remember that Franco's regimen was dictatorial) women were allowed to vote.[18] From 1976, during the Spanish transition to democracy women fully exercised the right to vote and be elected to office.


During the age of liberty (1718–1771), tax-paying female members of guilds, (most often widows), were allowed to vote for over fifty years. Between 1726 and 1742, women took part in 30 percent of the elections. New tax-regulations made the participation of women in the elections even more extensive from 1743 onward.[2]

The vote was sometimes given through a male representative, which was a usual reason given by the opposition to female suffrage. In 1758, women were excluded from the mayor- and local elections, but continued to vote in the national elections. In 1771, this suffrage was abolished through the new constitution.[2]

In 1862, tax-paying women of legal majority (meaning unmarried women and widows) were again allowed to vote in local elections. In 1906, the suggestion to grant women the right to vote in national elections was voted down in the parliament.[19] The same year, however, also married women were given municipal suffrage: previously, the right to vote in local elections had applied only to unmarried or widowed women, as only people of legal majority could vote, and excluded married women as they were juridically under the guardianship of their husbands. In 1909, women were granted eligibility in to municipal councils [19], and in the following 1910–11 communal elections, 40 women were elected in to different communal councils [19]. One of the well known woman politicians in the 1910s was Olivia Nordgren.

The right to vote in national elections was not returned to women until 1919, and was practiced again in the election of 1921, for the first time in 150 years.[2]

Women were active in modern political organisations from the start. Several women reached notable political positions before the suffrage of 1919/21, such as Kata Dahlström, first woman in the Social Democratic executive committee in 1900, Anna Sterky, chairman of the Women's trades union 1902–1907.

After the 1921 election, the first women took place in the Swedish parliament after the suffrage, among them being Kerstin Hesselgren.


The Swiss referendum on women's suffrage was held on 1 February 1959. The majority of Switzerland's men voted no, however in some cantons the vote was given to women.[20] Switzerland was the last Western republic (although women could not vote in the constitutional monarchy of Liechtenstein until 1984).[21] Women did not gain the right to vote in federal elections until 1971[20].

United Kingdom

A British cartoon speculating on why imprisoned suffragettes refused to eat in prison

The campaign for women's suffrage gained momentum throughout the early part of the nineteenth century as women became increasingly politically active, particularly during the campaigns to reform suffrage in the United Kingdom. John Stuart Mill, elected to Parliament in 1865 and an open advocate of female suffrage (about to publish The Subjection of Women), campaigned for an amendment to the Reform Act to include female suffrage. Roundly defeated in an all male parliament under a Conservative government, the issue of women's suffrage came to the fore.

During the later half of the 19th century, a number of campaign groups were formed in an attempt to lobby Members of Parliament and gain support. In 1897, seventeen of these groups came together to form the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), who held public meetings, wrote letters to politicians and published various texts. In 1907, the NUWSS organized its first large procession. This march became known as the Mud March as over 3,000 women trudged through the cold and the rutty streets of London from Hyde Park to Exeter Hall to advocate for women’s suffrage.

In 1903, a number of members of the NUWSS broke away and, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, formed the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). As the national media lost interest in the suffrage campaign, the WSPU decided it would use other methods to create publicity. This began in 1905 at a meeting where Sir Edward Grey, a member of the newly elected Liberal government, was speaking. As he was talking, two members of the WSPU constantly shouted out, 'Will the Liberal Government give votes to women?' When they refused to cease calling out, police were called to evict them and the two suffragettes (as members of the WSPU became known after this incident) were involved in a struggle which ended with them being arrested and charged for assault. When they refused to pay their fine, they were sent to prison. The British public were shocked and took notice at this use of violence to win the vote for women.

After this media success, the WSPU's tactics became increasingly violent. This included an attempt in 1908 to storm the House of Commons, the arson of David Lloyd George's country home (despite his support for women's suffrage). In 1909 Lady Constance Lytton was imprisoned, but immediately released when her identity was discovered, so in 1910 she disguised herself as a working class seamstress called Jane Warton and endured inhumane treatment which included force feeding. In 1913, Emily Davison, a suffragette, protested by interfering with a horse owned by King George V during the running of the Epsom Derby; she was trampled and died four days later. The WSPU ceased their militant activities during the First World War and agreed to assist with the war effort. Similarly, the NUWSS announced that they would cease political activity but continued to lobby discreetly throughout the First World War. In 1918, with the war over, Parliament agreed through the 1918 Qualification of Women Act to enfranchise women who were over the age of 30; providing they were householders, married to a householder or if they held a university degree.[22]. It was not until 1928 with Representation of the People Act 1928 that women were granted the right to vote on the same terms as men. In 1999 Time Magazine in naming Emmeline Pankhurst as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, states.."she shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back".[23]

North America


Widows and unmarried women were granted the right to vote in municipal elections in Ontario in 1884. Such limited franchises were extended in other provinces at the end of the 19th century, but bills to enfranchise women in provincial elections failed to pass in any province until Manitoba finally succeeded in 1916. At the federal level it was a two step process. On Sept. 20, 1917, women gained a limited right to vote: According to the Parliament of Canada website, the Military Voters Act established that "women who are British subjects and have close relatives in the armed forces can vote on behalf of their male relatives, in federal elections." About a year and a quarter later, at the beginning of 1919, the right to vote was extended to all women in the Act to confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women. The remaining provinces quickly followed suit, except for Quebec, which did not do so until 1940. Agnes Macphail became the first woman elected to Parliament in 1921.

United States

Seal of Wyoming. The state motto, "Equal Rights", refers to Wyoming being the first territory to grant women's suffrage, in 1869

Lydia Chapin Taft was an early forerunner in Colonial America who was allowed to vote in three New England town meetings, beginning in 1756, at Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

Following the American Revolution, women were allowed to vote in New Jersey, but no other state, from 1790 until 1807, provided they met property requirements then in place. In 1807, women were again forbidden from voting in the state.

In June 1848, Gerrit Smith made woman suffrage a plank in the Liberty Party platform. In July, at the Seneca Falls Convention in Upstate New York, activists including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott began a seventy-year struggle by women to secure the right to vote. In 1850, Lucy Stone organized a larger assembly with a wider focus, the National Women's Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. Susan B. Anthony, a native of Rochester, New York, joined the cause in 1852 after reading Stone's 1850 speech. Women's suffrage activists pointed out that blacks had been granted the franchise and had not been included in the language of the United States Constitution's Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments (which gave people equal protection under the law and the right to vote regardless of their race, respectively). This, they contended, had been unjust. Early victories were won in the territories of Wyoming (1869)[24] and Utah (1870), although Utah women were disenfranchised by provisions of the federal Edmunds–Tucker Act enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1887. The push to grant Utah women's suffrage was at least partially fueled by the belief that, given the right to vote, Utah women would dispose of polygamy. It was only after Utah women exercised their suffrage rights in favor of polygamy that the U.S. Congress disenfranchised Utah women.[25] By the end of the nineteenth century, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming had enfranchised women after effort by the suffrage associations at the state level.

During the beginning of the twentieth century, as women's suffrage gained in popularity, suffragists were subject to arrests and many were jailed. Finally, President Woodrow Wilson urged Congress to pass what became, when it was ratified in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment which prohibited state and federal agencies from gender-based restrictions on voting.



The first election for the Parliament of the newly formed Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 was based on the electoral provisions of the six states, so that women who had the vote and the right to stand for Parliament at state level (in South Australia and Western Australia) had the same rights for the 1901 Federal election. In 1902, the Commonwealth Parliament passed its own electoral act that extended these rights to women in all states on the same basis as men. However, the Commonwealth legislation excluded all Aboriginal men and women from the Commonwealth franchise, which in theory some of them had enjoyed in 1901 (state Parliaments generally had property qualifications for the franchise, which in practice few Aboriginals met). This was not corrected until 16 December 1966[26], through an amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act (it was not an outcome of the 1967 referendum that gave the Commonwealth Parliament the power to legislate specifically on Aboriginal matters). Also Australian women were able to vote.

Cook Islands

Women in Rarotonga were given the right to vote in 1893, shortly after New Zealand.[27]

New Zealand

Women in New Zealand were inspired to fight for their voting rights by the equal-rights philosopher John Stuart Mill and the British feminists’ aggressiveness. In addition, the missionary efforts of the American-based Women’s Christian Temperance Union gave them the motivation to fight. There were, in fact, a few male politicians that supported women’s rights, such as John Hall, Robert Stout, Julius Vogel, and William Fox. In 1878, 1879, and 1887 amendments extending the vote to women failed by a hair each time. In 1893 the reformers at last succeeded in extending the franchise to women.

Although the Liberal government which passed the bill generally advocated social and political reform, the electoral bill was only passed because of a combination of personality issues and political accident. The bill granted the vote to women of all races. New Zealand women were not given the right to stand for parliament, however, until 1919. In 2005, almost a third of the Members of Parliament elected were female. Women recently have also occupied powerful and symbolic offices such as those of Prime Minister, Governor-General, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Chief Justice.

Women's suffrage denied or conditioned

  • Lebanon—Partial suffrage. Proof of elementary education is required for women but not for men. Voting is compulsory for men but optional for women.[28]
  • Saudi Arabia—No suffrage for women. The first local elections ever held in the country occurred in 2005. Women were not given the right to vote or to stand for election, although suffrage may have been granted by 2009,[29] but these elections had been postponed for the time being.[30][31]
  • Vatican City—No suffrage for women; while most men in the Holy See also lack the vote, all electors in Papal conclaves (the Cardinals) are male.[32]

Suffrage denied or conditioned for both men and women

  • Brunei—Women and men have been denied the right to vote or to stand for a legislative election since 1962.[33] For the 1962 general and later local elections women's suffrage is neither denied nor conditioned.[citation needed]
  • United Arab Emirates—Limited (for both men and women), but it will be fully expanded by 2010.[34]
  • Additionally in some countries like Eritrea and Somalia no general elections are currently planned because of internal or external conflicts. For past or local elections women's suffrage is neither denied nor conditioned.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Colin Campbell Aikman, ‘History, Constitutional’ in McLintock, A.H. (ed),An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 3 vols, Wellington, NZ:R.E. Owen, Government Printer, 1966, vol 2, pp.67–75.
  2. ^ a b c d * Åsa Karlsson-Sjögren: "Männen, kvinnorna och rösträtten : medborgarskap och representation 1723–1866" (Men, women and the vote: citizenship and representation 1723–1866) (in Swedish)
  3. ^ Chapin, Judge Henry (2081). Address Delivered at the Unitarian Church in Uxbridge; 1864. Worcester, Mass.: Charles Hamilton Press (Harvard Library; from Google Books). p. 172. 
  4. ^ ""Uxbridge Breaks Tradition and Makes History: Lydia Chapin Taft by Carol Masiello"". The Blackstone Daily. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  5. ^ "Wee, Small Republics: A Few Examples of Popular Government," Hawaiian Gazette, Nov 1, 1895, p1
  6. ^ "Constitution (Female Suffrage) Act 1895 (SA)". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 2007-12-10. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Blackburn, Susan, 'Winning the Vote for Women in Indonesia' Australian Feminist Studies, Volume 14, Number 29, 1 April 1999, pp. 207–218
  9. ^ [ The Fusae Ichikawa Memorial Association
  10. ^ BBC news
  11. ^ Report from Denmark in European Database Women in Decision-making.
  12. ^ Ordonnance du 21 avril 1944 relative à l'organisation des pouvoirs publics en France après la Libération
  13. ^ Assemblée nationale. "La citoyenneté politique des femmes – La décision du Général de Gaulle" (in French). Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  14. ^ Patrick Weil. "Le statut des musulmans en Algérie coloniale. Une nationalité française dénaturée." (in French). in La Justice en Algérie 1830-1962, La Documentation française, Collection Histoire de la Justice, Paris, 2005, pp.95–109. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  15. ^ Daniel Lefeuvre (26 March 2003). "1945–1958 : un million et demi de citoyennes interdites de vote !" (in French). Clio, numéro 1/1995, Résistances et Libérations France 1940-1945. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  16. ^ God's Playground: A History of Poland, By Norman Davies, Columbia University Press, 1982, p. 302
  17. ^ Hostages of Modernization: Studies on Modern Antisemitism, 1870-1933/39, By Herbert Arthur Strauss, Published 1993, Walter de Gruyter, p. 985
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b c
  20. ^ a b The Long Way to Women's Right to Vote in Switzerland: a Chronology
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Emmeline Pankhurst – Time 100 People of the Century". Time Magazine. "She shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back ." 
  24. ^ see fac-simile at An Act to Grant to the Women of Wyoming Territory the Right of Suffrage and to Hold Office, Library of Congress, 10 December 1869,,03000u.tif&title=An%20Act%20to%20Grant%20to%20the%20Women%20of%20Wyoming%20Territory%20the%20Right%20of%20Suffrage%20and%20to%20Hold%20Office&displayProfile=0&dir=ammem&itemLink=r?ammem/awhbib:@field(DOCID+@lit(03000)), retrieved 2007-12-09 
  25. ^ Van Wagenen, Lola: "Sister-Wives and Suffragists: Polygamy and the Politics of Woman Suffrage 1870–1896," BYU Studies, 2001.
  26. ^ 'Australian Government Policy in relation to Aboriginal People'
  27. ^ Markoff, John, 'Margins, Centers, and Democracy: The Paradigmatic History of Women's Suffrage' Signs the Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 2003; 29 (1)
  28. ^ CIA – The World Factbook – Lebanon
  29. ^ Women voters will have to wait until 2009
  30. ^ At least 2 years wait
  31. ^ Hello, democracy – and goodbye
  32. ^ In Which Countries are Women Not Allowed to Vote?
  33. ^ Brunei sultan amends Constitution, eyes council elections | Asian Political News | Find Articles at BNET
  34. ^ Al Jazeera English – News – UAE To Hold Its First Election

Further reading

  • DuBois, Ellen Carol, Harriot Stanton Blatch and the Winning of Woman Suffrage (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997) ISBN 0-300-06562-0
  • Flexner, Eleanor, Century of Struggle: The Woman's Rights Movement in the United States, enlarged edition with Foreword by Ellen Fitzpatrick (1959, 1975; Cambridge and London: The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 1996) ISBN 0-674-10653-9
  • Kenney, Annie, Memories of a Militant' (London: Edwin Arnold, 1924)
  • Lloyd, Trevor, Suffragettes International: The Worldwide Campaign for Women's Rights (New York: American Heritage Press, 1971).
  • Mackenzie, Midge, Shoulder to Shoulder: A Documentary (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975). ISBN 0-394-73070-4
  • Raeburn, Antonia, Militant Suffragettes (London: New English Library, 1973)
  • Stevens, Doris, edited by Carol O'Hare, Jailed for Freedom: American Women Win the Vote (1920; Troutdale, OR: NewSage Press, 1995). ISBN 0-939165-25-2
  • Wheeler, Marjorie Spruill, editor, One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement (Troutdale, OR: NewSage Press, 1995) ISBN 0-939165-26-0

External links

Simple English

Women's suffrage refers to women fighting to gain the right to vote and to hold official office. Before 1893, no women had the right to have their say about how the country was run. In 1893, after Kate Sheppard[1] and her work mates had been demonstrating and raising awareness of the suffragette's fight, New Zealand women were given the right to vote after parliament (which was all men) voted for it. Many countries followed soon after, following similar battles. Women like Susan Brownell Anthony helped to make women's rights come true.Emmeline Pankhurst was one of the many women who wanted to be able to vote and gain the same responsibility's as men had. She believed that women and men were equal individuals. She was arrested frequently with one of her daughters christabel. Emily Davidson also believed very strongly about suffrage and went to the extremes of killing herself by being trampled by the kings horse at the races. In 1893 women in New Zeland were allowed to vote. By the 1920's most women could vote and in 1970 the fist swiss women was voted prime minister.Still today some muslim countries will not allow women to vote, despite the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

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