The women’s suffrage movement was an essential emphasis of the women’s rights movement. At Seneca Falls, New York, the first women’s rights conference was organized in 1848. These 10 fascinating facts about the women’s suffrage movement illuminate the battle for equal rights that continues to be fought today.
- Saudi Arabia gave women the right to vote in 2015, leaving Vatican City as the only place where women’s suffrage is still denied today.
- Women did not have the right to vote in the early democracies of Greece and the Roman Republic.
- The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote in America, was first proposed and rejected in 1878, then reintroduced every year for the next 41 years. In 1984, Mississippi became the last state to ratify it.
- The U.N. first explicitly named women’s suffrage as a human right in 1979.
- The women’s suffrage movement sprung from the abolition movement.
- In 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing nation to give women a lasting right to vote. It did not, however, give women the right to hold office in Parliament. The Corsican Republic actually gave women the right to vote much earlier, in 1755, but this right was curtailed after the nation was colonized by France.
- Finland became the first European country to give women the right to vote, in 1906. Women had previously been allowed to vote there under both Swedish and Russian rule. Finland was also the first country to allow women to take office in Parliament.
- Wyoming was the first U.S. state to give women the right to vote. Women there had been voting since 1869 in Wyoming Territory, which only agreed to join the Union if this right was maintained. Congress threatened to deny statehood over the issue, but Wyoming wouldn’t back down.
- The original 1776 constitution of New Jersey gave “all inhabitants” who were “worth 50 pounds” the right to vote. This was vague, so in 1797, women with 50 pounds or more to their names were explicitly allowed to vote. This right only applied to single women. Married women did not count, since their husbands legally controlled all the property they owned. In 1807, the law was changed once again, restricting the vote to only free white male citizens.
- Not all suffragists were women, and not all anti-suffragists were men. Numerous men were committed suffragists, and some were imprisoned and force-fed just like their female comrades. Many prominent women also proclaimed disapproval for the suffrage movement, arguing that women did not want to vote, and that it would mean competition with men rather than cooperation.
Great strides have been made in the fight for equal rights, as evidenced by these 10 fascinating facts about the women’s suffrage movement. Women persevered and endured great hardships to ensure the granting of rights that many today take for granted. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
– Anna Parker