Introduction of women's right to vote in some European / North American nations:
||Fruitless petition of women in Zurich for women's
right to vote
||The Swiss Association of Female Workers demands
for women's right to vote
||Switzerland's Social Democratic Party integrates
the demand for women's right to vote into their new platform.
||Several regional associations form the
Swiss Association for Women's Right to Vote that pleads
for all aspects of equal rights for women.
||The Social Democratic Party demands for
women's right to vote in canton St. Gallen. The motion gets blocked
by a majority of liberal and conservative members of parliament.
Similar parliamentary initiatives in cantons Basel, Bern, Geneva,
Neuchâtel, Zurich and Vaud are fruitless as well.
||After World War I, women's right to vote is one of
the central demands in the general strike.
||Switzerland's parliament instructs the government to
prepare the introduction of women's right to vote. The government
does not start with this job for decades.
||Women's right to vote is rejected
in several cantonal referendums (Geneva, Neuchâtel, Basel, Zurich,
Glarus and St. Gallen).
||Conservative women unite and plead for division of
work between men and women:
"Women should stay at home".
||A petition by several assciations of women, by the
Social Democratic Party and by the trade unions for women's right to vote
cannot move anything.
||World economic crisis: women are sent back to the
kitchen. The situation is not favourable for women's rights.
||World War II: while most Swiss men serve as soldiers
of the Swiss Army for several months per year, women keep Switzerland's
||After World War II there is some sort of political
awakening, old demands like the introduction of a social security system
and the integration of the Social Democratic Party into the broad
coalition government are possible now. But women have to wait. Even in
progressive cantons like Basel, Geneva, Ticino, Zurich, Neuchâtel,
Solothurn and Vaud referendums bring negative results.
||The federal government presents a report to the
parliament saying that it was not time for women's right vote on the
federal level while it was rejected in all cantonal referendums.
||A cantonal referendum in Basel allows the introduction
of women's right to vote on local level.
||"Cold War": Switzerland's government
fears a communist attack, prepares for better air-raid precautions and
wants to introduce a general duty of service as air-raid wardens for
women. Now the politicial associations of women protest loudly against
new duties without new rights. The government gives in and prepares
a law for the introduction of women's right to vote.
||The conservative opponents to women's right to vote
accept the law in parlament for tactical reasons: If the new law is
rejected in a referendum now, it will take years or even decades before
a new referendum on this question will be possible.
||Public campaign on the referendum: Only the
Social Democratic Party, the trade unions, a very small independent party
and the Communist Party support women' right to vote, the major liberal
and conservative parties remain undecided, the right wing parties
and even some rural association of women oppose it.
||A majority of Switzerland's men say no
in a national referendum on women's right to vote on February,
1st: 654,939 (67%) no vs. 323,727 (31%) yes.
In some smaller cantons in central and eastern Switzerland the no-majority
reaches more than 80%, in Appenzell Innerrhoden even 95%.
Only three French speaking western cantons say yes: Vaud (51%),
Neuchâtel (52%) and Geneva (60%). Vaud introduces women's right to vote
in a referendum on cantonal and local level. Neuchâtel follows in
September 1959, Geneva in 1960.
||Conservative women found a
Federation of Swiss Women against Women's Right to Vote
||First cantonal referendum in favor of women's right
to vote in a German speaking canton: Basel-City.
||Basel-Land follows Basel-City
||Canton Ticino (Italian speaking, southern Switzerland)
||Switzerland's federal government wants to join the
and to sign the
European Convention on Human Rights
for geo-political reasons (Cold War!) but Switzerland does not keep
up to the European standards ...
While the government proposes to declare an exception concerning
women's right to vote, some progressive associations of women
||Student's revolts against conservative structures
all over western Europe - and the open protest is only the top of
the iceberg: western society is changing.
Switzerland's government decides to hold a referendum on women's right
to vote once again.
||Finally on February, 7th women's right to
vote is accepted in Switzerland with a majority of 621,109 (66%) yes
vs. 323,882 (34%) no. But in central and eastern Switzerland there
are still seven cantons with a no-majority.
Four more cantons introduce women's right to vote on cantonal and local
level by referendums: Fribourg, Schaffhausen, Zug and Aargau.
||Parliamentary elections (October, 31st:
11 women (5,5%) are elected members of parliament.
||Referendum on a revision of the constitution:
Equal rights for men and women accepted with
797,702 yes vs. 525,885 no votes.
||First woman elected member of Switzerland's
||Referendum on a revision of the Civil Code:
Equal rights for men and women in the family are accepted with
921,743 yes vs. 762,619 no votes.
||Referendum on a law to introduce a
paid maternity leave accepted
While the majority of cantons introduced women's right to vote
shortly before or shortly after the confederation did in 1971,
two conservative half-cantons in eastern Switzerland, Appenzell Ausserrhoden
and Appenzell Innerrhoden refused to do so for a long
time. During the 1980's pressure of public opinion increased.
The men of Appenzell Ausserrhoden thought it might be better to change their
laws themselves and they did so in 1989. But in Appenzell
Innerrhoden nothing changed.
It seems that the introduction of major changes in society is easier
when the system is changed altogether: The Soviet Union, Austria and
Germany (1917-1919) introduced women's right to vote together with the
abolition of monarchy, while it took longer to modify an established and
functioning democratic tradition (UK 1928, France 1944, Switzerland 1971).
The example of women's right to vote shows that democracy is not generally
more progressive as other forms of government. If a majority of the population
is well accustomed to certain basic rules and if these rules work reasonably
well common people even tend to stick more to these reliable rules
than members of parliament and government would do - even if these rules are
very unjust for some individuals or even major groups.
On the other hand, changing rules alone is only the one half of the
process of change - the new rules must be known and accepted by a broad
majority of the population to become effective. Direct Democracy does help
to raise a discussion on rules in the families, at work and in other places
ordinary people meet each other. Experts are forced to explain the necessity
for change not only to a small number of people (members of government and
parliament) but to everybody. This is very helpful to ensure that (almost)
everybody will understand the need for change.