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A Country That Wouldn’t Let Women Vote Til 1971

Looking back from our vantage point of 2016, it seems really odd that American women did not have the right to vote until 1920. But Switzerland is even odder. That country became a democracy long ago, with the first citizen balloting held in the year 1291. But that was for adult men only. Women in Switzerland didn’t have the right to vote until 1971. And even then, many women could only vote in national elections. Some cantons held women back from voting in local elections until ordered by the Swiss federal court in 1991!  

The Swiss move very slowly. That’s their way. For centuries, husbands had legal authority over their wives’ savings. “In the 1970s, I had a bank account in my son’s name. I tried to go and buy something, and they told me I needed the signature of my man,” a woman told London’s Independent. She was furious. But that was the law. It wasn’t changed until a national referendum in 1985, and the vote that time was a squeaker: a 4 percent plurality.

Read about the struggle for women’s suffrage in Switzerland at Curiously Krulwich.

(Image credit: Vogt, Jules)


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