10 Fascinating Facts About the Women's Suffrage MovementThe 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Women did not have the right to vote in the early democracies of Greece and the Roman Republic.
  3. 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.
  4. The U.N. first explicitly named women’s suffrage as a human right in 1979.
  5. The women’s suffrage movement sprung from the abolition movement.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

Photo: Flickr

Important to Vote
Exercising one’s right to vote is about as American as one can get. The U.S. is a country that was founded with the intention of providing freedom and allowing one’s opinions to shape policy. As it follows, it is important to vote. However, the Pew Research Center found that compared to other democratic countries, the U.S. pales in comparison regarding voter turnout.

In fact, after the 2012 election, the U.S. had the ninth lowest voting rate out of 35 other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The country with the highest voter turnout rate was Belgium during its 2014 election, with over 89 percent of their registered voters exercising their democratic right. In comparison, less than 54 percent of registered voters in the U.S. voted in the 2012 election.

There is a myth in the U.S. that one’s vote does not matter. While it is the Electoral College that ultimately determines the outcome of the election, the vote of the public is still crucial. The popular vote often influences the electoral vote. Though the popular vote does not directly determine the presidential outcome, it does dictate which of the elected officials in each state get to vote in the Electoral College.

The popular vote can also help determine policy long after the election is over, especially if the winning candidate’s margin of victory is low or high. If the former, the candidate will likely push for more moderate policy and if the latter, the candidate will listen to the majority. Thus, if more people vote, the more representative the democracy will likely become.

It is important to vote not only because it helps determine the political outcome, but because it is a right that was fought for by a majority of people in the U.S. and is still being fought for in other democratic countries around the world.

When the U.S. was founded, only white men of a certain faith who owned property could vote. In 1870, the right was extended to former slaves. In 1920, the women’s suffrage movement prevailed.

It was not until 1965 that discriminatory voting practices of any kind were outlawed on a federal level with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, many voters still experience prejudice at the polls.

Women in Saudi Arabia just recently gained the right to vote in 2011. Currently, the only democratic country that does not allow women to vote is Vatican City. Not even all men can vote — only cardinals can vote in Vatican City. This is because only cardinals can vote for the Pope, who presides over the country, and as of now, only men can become cardinals.

The suffrage of citizens is a key component of political efficacy. When one has the ability to vote, they feel that they are involved in their government and can potentially create change.

Extending the right to vote to all citizens not only creates a more representative democracy but also creates a sense of community because everyone’s voice is heard — not just those in power.

Laura Cassin

Photo: Flickr