When women got the right to vote in 50 countries
The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted American women the right to vote. While it might feel as though it’s been an inalienable right for as long as we can remember, it really wasn’t that long ago that women not only didn’t have the right to vote, but also couldn’t own land, travel freely, or work outside the traditional roles prescribed by society.
And while the United States was one of the earlier countries to grant the vote, they were by no means the first, with countries such as New Zealand and Australia leading the way in equal rights for women. Other countries fell far behind the rest of the world in granting women equal voting rights, and many are still fighting against gender bias and cultural stigmas when it comes to equality for women.
Regardless, women everywhere continue to make strides, make history, and make changes. And while there is still much to be done before all women can experience gender equality, there is no doubt that the women’s rights movement is alive and well today, and progress will march on for those rights.
In celebration of the centennial milestone for the 19th Amendment, here is a look at women’s rights across the globe. Using news reports and historical websites, Stacker compiled a list of 50 countries, and when they gave the majority of women the right to vote. The countries are listed in chronological order.
This comprehensive list not only showcases the dates women gained suffrage, but also how they did it and what their political standing looks like around the world today. Check out the timeline and see when women around the world earned the right to vote:
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1893: New Zealand
Led by suffrage activist Kate Sheppard, the women of New Zealand campaigned in the late 1800s, putting together multiple petitions that called for parliament to grant women the right to vote. While the women received a great deal of opposition, with many cabinet members concerned that women would vote for the prohibition of alcohol, their lobbying finally paid off and on Sept. 19, 1893, the bill was signed into law.
[Pictured: The National Council of Women in Christchurch, New Zealand, 1896.]
In Australia, the women’s suffrage movement was initially divided between two regions, South Australia and Western Australia. In the south, after a struggle for equal rights that lasted for decades, the South Australian parliament passed the Adult Suffrage act in 1894, which not only granted women the right to vote, but also to stand for parliament. In 1899, Western Australia followed suit, and in 1902, the Australian parliament passed the Commonwealth Franchise Act, granting voting rights to all Australian women. Unfortunately, that did not include Indigenous Australian women, who were not given the right to vote until 1962.
[Pictured: Women voters outside a polling place in Brisbane, Australia, on May 25, 1907.]
Women in Finland were granted the right to vote in 1906, making it the first European country to do so. After political unrest led to a general strike against the czarist regime in 1905, a decree was issued for the creation of a parliament based on universal suffrage in Finland. In 1907, 19 women were elected as members of parliament in Finland’s first parliamentary election, and women continue to play strong political roles in the country today.
[Pictured: The world’s first female parliamentarians in Finland, 1907.]
Long known for being a leader in equality, it’s somewhat surprising that women in Norway fought for nearly 30 years for the right to vote. Norway’s parliament first debated the issue in 1890, when it was said that women could actually lose their identities and be a degradation to home and family if they were allowed to vote. By 1910, however, women had won the same voting rights as men in local elections, and by 1913, the Norwegian Constitution was amended to include all Norwegian citizens in the right to vote.
[Pictured: Women vote in Oslo, Norway.]
In the 1800s, Denmark’s political activity was only allowed for men over the age of 30 who were the head of their households, which accounted for just 15% of Denmark’s population. Activist Matilde Bajer formed a women’s suffrage group in 1871, and became the leader of the political wing of the Women’s Progress Association, which fought for women’s rights until finally winning the right to vote in 1915.
[Pictured: Marie Lassen in Denmark, circa 1921.]
Iceland’s first political women’s group, The Icelandic Women’s Association, was formed in 1894. Although women had been allowed to vote in local elections since 1881, it took years of lobbying and petitions for them to win the right vote in national elections. They were granted those rights in 1915, but the law only applied to women over the age of 40. It wasn’t until 1920 that the age restriction was removed. Today, Iceland leads the world in gender equality, ranking number one by the Global Gender Gap Report for 11 years running.
[Pictured: A celebration of women’s suffrage in Reykjavík, Iceland, on July 7, 1915.]
The fight for women’s suffrage in Canada spanned across the provinces, and women fought for decades for the right to vote. In 1917, those rights were awarded to the majority of Canadian women, the exception being Indigenous Canadians, both male and female, who did not win the right to vote until 1960.
[Pictured: A group of women walking outside of Toronto in 1912.]
It took 40,000 women marching through the streets of St. Petersburg for Russia to concede on the right to vote. Organized by The Russian League for Women’s Equality, which was started in 1907, the march took place after Prince Georgy Lvov took over in 1917. Lvov had announced new government provisions, which did not include women’s suffrage. After the protest, Lvov amended his provisions to include the right to vote for women.
[Pictured: Women's Suffrage Demonstration on the Nevsky Prospekt in Petrograd on March 8, 1917.]
In 1918, Poland gained its independence after more than 100 years of subjugation by Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary. With that milestone came independence for Polish women as well, as the new government awarded women the right to vote and participate in elections for the Sejm, Poland’s parliament. Women went on to fight for and win rights in matters of holding office, civil law, and property ownership.
[Pictured: Legion of Polish women participating in artistic activities on Aug. 20, 1920.]
The women’s suffrage movement in Germany began in the late 1800s, with women gaining the right to vote in 1918. Activist Clara Zetkin was one of the most well-known leaders of the movement who campaigned to develop the women’s movement and organized the first international women’s conference. As Germany transitioned from imperial rule to the Weimar Republic, the movement gained momentum, and equality for all sexes was eventually included in the new Weimar Constitution.
[Pictured: A crowd of women outside of a polling station in Berlin, Germany, in January 1919.]2018 All rights reserved.