A First for Women

Despite notable progress, much work still remains to be done when it comes to women's rights. In that context, the right to vote is often seen as one of the most important steps toward the full empowerment of women. We wonder: Which of the following countries was the last to give women the right to vote?

A. China
B. France
C. Switzerland
D. Turkey

A. China is not correct.

China granted women the right to vote in 1949 after the People's Republic of China was established. However, China's Communist Party does not allow democratic elections.

Many other countries — especially in Africa — granted women the right to vote after the end of the colonial era. In India, women were awarded full voting rights in 1950, three years after the country's independence from Great Britain in 1947.

B. France is not correct.

Women in France were granted the right to vote in 1944.

The first country in the world to grant women full voting rights was New Zealand in 1893, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Other Western countries followed suit — such as Germany in 1918, the United States in 1920 and Ireland and the United Kingdom in 1928.

C. Switzerland is correct.

Swiss women were awarded the right to vote at the federal level only in February 1971 — late in comparison to other European countries. Women enjoyed the right to vote as early as 1906 in Finland — 65 years earlier than Swiss women.

Switzerland's system of direct democracy made women's suffrage especially hard to obtain. In Switzerland, the male population, not elected representatives, got to decide the issue directly. In 1971, about two-thirds of Swiss men finally voted in favor of women's voting rights.

D. Turkey is not correct.

In 1930, Turkey gave women the right to vote as part of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's policy of reforming and secularizing the country — the first Middle Eastern country to do so. Women received the right to stand for election in 1934.

Despite this impressive achievement, it was not until 2002 that Turkey amended its civil code to allow women formal equality. As a result of the amendment, Turkish men are now no longer regarded by law as the head of the family — and women can take a job without asking their husband for permission.

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