The fight for suffrage was not limited to America and the United Kingdom. In 1893, New Zealand became the first independently ruled country to grant full suffrage to women.
Women in every country were fighting for suffrage, equal rights under the law, and education. Some fights were won sooner than ours and some much later. This week’s post is an overview of some of our sister suffragettes around the world.
New Zealand: Kate Sheppard, 1837-1934, was first involved in the Temperance Movement there but realized that having the vote was the key to unlocking restrictions on women. “We are tired of having a “sphere” doled out to us, and of being told that anything outside that sphere is “unwomanly”.’ She traveled the country, wrote articles, and gave speeches. She gathered 32,000 signatures on a 270 m (885 ft) long petition and dramatically unfurled it before parliament. Despite the Prime Minister’s anti-suffrage views, it was passed by both houses. The women of New Zealand got full national suffrage on September 19, 1893.
China: Qiu Jin, 1875-1907, was a feminist, revolutionary, and poet who unbound her feet, wore men’s clothing, left her arranged marriage, and studied overseas at a time when most women wouldn’t even leave their home. She had a short-lived women’s rights publication called “Chinese Women’s Journal” which fought against cultural norms like foot binding and arranged marriages. She was also involved in revolutionary groups trying to topple the Qing government. Often considered the Chinese “Joan of Arc,” she died a martyr. She was beheaded by the Imperial Army in 1907 at the age of 31.
Nigeria: Nana Asma’u, 1793-1864, was a princess, poet, scholar, and trusted advisor to the court. She was fluent in eight languages and was a model of education and independence while still leading a pious life. In the 1830s she trained female teachers to go into rural areas and provide education to girls. She continues to be a revered advocate for women’s education and feminism in many African nations and several schools are named in her honor.
Austria: Marianne Hainisch, 1839-1936, founder of the Austrian women’s movement, champion for higher education for women, leader of the World Peace Movement. Although the idea was radical at the time, she advocated for grammar schools for girls in 1870 arguing that it would help stabilize society so that women could enter skilled labor fields and add to the economy. She continued to fight for equal rights and suffrage. Austria granted suffrage in 1918 and her son Michael Hainisch (1858–1940) was the first president of the Republic of Austria (1920–1928).
Brazil: Leolinda Daltro, 1859-1935, was a teacher, suffragist, and native rights advocate. She founded Partido Republicano Feminino (Feminine Republican Party) in 1910 and worked with the poet Gilka Machado to advocate for women’s rights.
Canada: Women’s rights had been championed since the 1880s but the 1927 “Person’s Case” lead by five long term suffragists and social reformers is considered a touchstone of women’s rights in Canada.The Famous Five consisted of Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney, and Irene Parlby who made a legal argument that women are persons under Canadian law.
Egypt: Huda Sha’arawi, 1879-1947, founded the Egyptian Feminist Union in 1923. She is most famously remembered for her act of rebellion in March of 1923 where she intentionally removed her veil at a busy Cairo train station. She continued to fight for women’s education and equality and became the first president of the Arab Feminist Union in 1945.
Persia: Tahirih, 1814-1852, was a poet, theologian, and highly educated woman of the Baha’i faith. She organized women to reject the old patterns of society and to no longer tolerate oppression. In a highly defiant act, she spoke before an all male conference about women’s rights and removed her veil. She was executed in 1852 for both her faith and her equal rights activities. Her brave last words were “You can kill me as soon as you like, but you will never stop the emancipation of women.”
Japan: Ichikawa Fusae, 1893-1981, was journalist and labor organizer who founded the Fusen Kakutoku Dōmei (Women’s Suffrage League) in 1924. She was a social reformer and a strong advocate for women’s rights until her death at 88 years old. Despite being a very outspoken and militant feminist in a society that encouraged women to be mild, she continues to be one of the most well respected politicians in Japanese history. Bonus: Japanese suffragist and actor, Komako Kimura, was photographed taking part in the 1917 suffrage parade in NYC.
India: Feminism in India started with MALE reformers such as Raja Rammohan Roy (1772-1833) who fought to outlaw the custom of requiring top society caste widows to die with their husband’s body by throwing themselves into the funeral pyre. Other reformers like, Pandita Ramabai, 1858-1922,a sanskrit scholar who married out of her caste began the first feminist organization in India in 1881 and advocated for schools for women doctors and teachers. Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddi,1886-1968, was a medical doctor and the first female legislator in India. She founded the Women’s Indian Association (WIA) in 1917.
The list of names and countries goes on. The main point is that women all over the world have been part of women's movements along side the more well known efforts of the United Kingdom and America. Let us remember that there are people of all races, religions, and genders in every country of the world united in the pursuit of equality.
This week’s song pick:
It’s a Woman’s World by Cher https://youtu.be/JjPWL-23w-w
Episode 42 Sources: