Struggle for Women’s Suffrage in Europe


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Eighty years ago, on April 21, 1944, France decreed that women would have the right to vote in postwar elections. However, it was not until April 1945, after more than 150 years of advocacy, that French women were able to cast their ballots for the first time, under the leadership of General Charles de Gaulle during the German occupation.

This victory for French women, though significant, came comparatively late when compared to other European nations. Finland, known as the birthplace of modern democracy, granted women suffrage in 1906, setting a precedent for the continent.

Women’s Suffrage Across Europe

Various European countries had already embraced women’s voting rights by the early 20th century. From Denmark to Azerbaijan, Germany to Georgia, women were granted at least limited voting rights in the 1910s, marking a significant step towards gender equality in the political sphere.

The United Kingdom’s suffragettes fought relentlessly for the right to vote, leading to the Representation of the People Act 1918, which granted voting rights to certain women over 30.

From Delayed Rights to Gender Equality

From Delayed Rights to Gender Equality

Some European countries faced delays in implementing equal voting rights for women. Greece did not grant full voting rights until 1952, although literate women could participate in local elections from 1930.

Switzerland and Liechtenstein gradually progressed towards gender inclusivity in politics, with Switzerland granting federal voting rights in 1971 and Liechtenstein following suit in 1984.

In Italy, Fascism interrupted the suffrage process, and women finally gained the right to vote in 1945 after participating in the resistance against fascism during World War II.

Spanish women gained voting rights in 1933, but these were limited following Franco’s rise to power in 1939. It wasn’t until 1977, after Franco’s death, that women participated in national elections in Spain.

France’s journey towards suffrage saw institutional resistance and political turmoil, with women securing the right to vote after World War II.

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