We gals are pretty grateful for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Why? Because it gave us the right to vote. This year of 2020 marks the centennial of the ratification of the amendment.
For the past 100 years, candidates for city, county, state and federal positions have been trying to get the female vote. Not that we all vote alike, that’s unlikely. But we all—whether hockey mom or business owner—pay attention to what’s being said, or not said, and who lines up best with our values.
Women are not only great at juggling many demands at once, we also possess something that sets us apart—female intuition. Candidates would do well to keep these powers in mind and not underestimate our ability to sway an election one way or another.
The Barron County Historical Society’s Pioneer Village Museum wanted to highlight this 100th year of women’s suffrage in the U.S. this summer, but like everything else, the pandemic shut it down.
“We had planned on making signs and doing a march across the Red Cedar,” said museum director Tammy Schutz. “We had a reenactor who was going to do a presentation as Eleanor Roosevelt. We had rented a traveling exhibit on suffrage from the Wisconsin Historical Society. We planned on playing croquet and having box lunches.”
She added, “Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment (June 10, 1919), but it took 70 years of fighting for it. It’s disappointing to realize that they basically threw black women under the bus when it looked like it wouldn’t pass if they went for an all or nothing approach.”
Although 100 years ago seems like, well, a century ago, at least 20 other countries allowed women to vote before the United States joined the ranks.
Any guess which country was first? According to PEW Research Center, “New Zealand enfranchised its female citizens in 1893, making it the first nation or territory to formally allow women to vote in national elections. The legislation allowing women to vote in parliamentary elections followed years of campaigning by people such as Kate Sheppard, who helmed the movement and now adorns the country’s $10 banknote.
Other countries soon followed New Zealand’s lead. Some of these included Finland in 1906, Denmark and Iceland in 1915, Russia in 1917, and Germany and the United Kingdom in 1918.
At least 19 other countries granted women the right to vote prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 in the United States. These countries are spread across Europe and Asia, and about half first gave women the right to vote while under Russian or Soviet control or shortly after independence from Russia.
The PEW research study found that none of the 198 countries and territories it analyzed kept women from voting because of their gender; some of the countries simply did not hold national elections.
Following after the U.S. were Brazil in 1932, Turkey in 1934, France in 1944 and Japan in 1945. Then came India in 1947, Greece in 1952, China and Mexico in 1953, Honduras in 1955, Egypt in 1956, our neighbor to the north Canada in 1960 and women down under in Australia and in the Bahamas in 1962. Switzerland was a hold out until 1971. Women won the right to vote in Iraq in 1980 and Oman in 1984. Saudi Arabia is the most recent country in which women have won the right to vote, in 2015.
Exercising our right to vote is a civil liberty often taken for granted. In many places, women’s suffrage is a relatively recent privilege. Act on that right and privilege on Nov. 3.