Suffrage and Democracy in Europe

Still from „These dangerous women“, Clapham films

Women’s struggle for voting rights was a strategic key element for democratic development at the end of WW1.

Often neglected or underestimated:

  • Women had/have to fight hard since decades to get their voices heard
  • Women need specific protection from (sexualised) violence and war
  • Women’s social roles for survival and care are vital in war times and post war reconstruction
  • Women’s meaningful roles and leadership in peace building can guarantee sustainability in peace negotiations and peace treaties
  • Women’s capacities in organising community life beyond religion, ethnicity, class and nation can only restore and protect human rights

“May we learn from life – and from each other” (Jane Addams , opening the women’s congress in 1919 in Zurich)

Map from the ZDF website
showing the year of introduction of womens voting rights in European countries

Different ways and obstacles

In Germany and Austria, the introduction of universal equal suffrage in November 1918 was associated with the revolution, and the search for a socialist development respecting rights and freedoms. Until now, women still have not reached parity in the parliaments according to their percentage in the population.

In Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, equal suffrage came with the formation of a nation. Equality rights are under great pressure again now.

In the United Kingdom a long-standing struggle of suffragists led to success only in 1928

In Spain women had to wait till 1931, to get their rights.

In France it was after WWII in 1944

in Italy even later in 1946

100 years women’s voting rights – have we reached our goals?

by Heidi Meinzolt

A new phase of remembrance

What is the importance of women’s voting rights today and what is meaningful participation?

How are women dealing with their rights in times of growing right-wing movements and parties launching propaganda with conservative patriarchal images of women and families, cultivating stereotyped anti-feminism?

How can we as women in Europe be united cross-border to counter a revival of so-called “traditional values” instrumentalizing women’s exclusion from the public sphere through laws and practices?

How can we involve (young) women, students, youth groups, and new generations of peace activists to understand and commit to actual threats of peace and democratic rights

  • restore and protect women’s rights as human rights, organising community life beyond religion, ethnic, class and nation
  • raise awareness of the impact of gendered responsibilities in times of othering and new walls.
  • empower with self-respect and tolerance in a situation where women’s and human rights are again under attack in Europe with the renaissance of conservative patriarchal images of women and families, stereotyped anti-feminism and exclusion through laws and practices is utmost important
  • teach courage, endurance today and feminist convictions and build bridges to the future
  • re-vitalise Europe in a pan-European and sustainable Union, which guarantees to its citizens welfare, peace, stability, respect and justice linked to global responsibility and sustainable development.


Be active to bring your visions forward
Take EU-Parliament elections serious
Ask EU candidates before and after elections what they do for your priorities:

  • Move the money from war to peace
  • Stop weapons production and arms trade
  • Give women a meaningful voice in decision making and negotiations
  • Struggle for equal rights for all men, women and diverse sexes
  • Defend Human Rights for everybody, independently of their origin
  • Promote fair trade and climate justice
  • Promote the idea of commons
  • List to be continued …