Monday, February 6, 2012

Swiss women and the vote: History I didn't know I didn't know.

I was cruising around the web this morning, doing some research for my Women's History Month blogging idea, and came across this a wikipedia page claiming that Swiss women hadn't been able to vote until 1971. My first reaction was, What?! I don't believe that for one minute!

So I did the next logical thing, and did a Google search for "swiss suffrage," and was shocked to learn it was true. (I mean, I didn't actually suspect wikipedia was wrong, I just couldn't accept it that easily.)

There are a number of good sources that came up, so I accept that it is true. I'm still shocked, though.

The BBC News site "On This Day" gives the news of the day 41 years ago when Swiss women finally got the ability to vote. But even with that right finally made available, they still had a long way to go, baby.

Although Swiss women can now vote in most regional and national elections, they continue to face discrimination under Swiss law.

At home, men retain control of their wives' property and capital, and the husband has the right to decide where he and his wife will reside.
There's a good audio report on the World Radio Switzerland site, giving a good history and current state of woman's suffrage in the country.
And has a great story honoring Marthe Gosteli, a tireless leader for suffrage for Swiss women, and gives a bit more history on the matter.
It took 50 votes – all decided by men – before Switzerland finally allowed women to vote in 1971, one of the last European countries to do so. Gosteli said a lot of work had been done to convince people of the merits of the change.

But opponents had carried out a fierce campaign, using rather crude posters to warn of the “perils” of women voting.

Gosteli said that she was surprised at just how many educated women took part in the “no” campaign, despite the fact that “they had only been able to study thanks to the early women’s movement”.

Women’s suffrage 40 years ago was an important milestone. But the whole fight was exhausting and Gosteli found that even when she learned of the positive result, “it was a relief but I was not jumping around for joy”.

“I was simply happy that we had won.”
She was asked why modern Swiss women don't vote. Her reason?
Gosteli believes the lack of interest of young women today in the history of the women’s movement doesn’t come from them simply taking equal rights for granted. Nor does she believe that they lack self-confidence.

“It’s more that there is an catastrophic education deficit concerning women’s issues,” she said.

“Education is the key,” points out Gosteli. This is why her Gosteli foundation this year published a brochure about the history of the women’s movement which can be used in secondary schools.


Post a Comment