Women’s Suffrage:
A World Wide Movement


Introduction: Today the world is enthralled with images of women lining up to vote for the first time, or for the first time in a long while. Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and South Africa, in recent decades have all held elections allowing women to vote.

In spite of this recognition of the fundamental importance of women achieving the vote, attention paid to the history of its long struggle has been marginalized. And, the reasons for the depth of its opposition ignored. Why, for example, did it take until May, 2005, for women in Kuwait to finally achieve their full voting rights in their national elections?

It is commonly believed that female suffrage was desired and fought for only in England and the United States. Yet dynamic struggles for women’s basic democratic right appeared in many countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Though these movements differed in their reasons and tactics, the fight for female suffrage, along with other women’s rights concerns, cut across many national boundaries. By exploring the following topics, this essay attempts to help rectify the narrow and unexamined view of female suffrage.

  • Worldwide Alliances and Influences:  By the turn of the twentieth century women’s reform was truly an international movement, one in which ideas and tactics used in one country served as models for use in another.
  • When and Where:  Women’s struggle for suffrage was long and sometimes bitter. In most cases women won the right to vote in uneven stages.
  • The Case for Suffrage:  Reasons for granting female suffrage have varied.
  • Obstacles to Overcome:  Female suffrage was a divisive issue and perceived by some to be too revolutionary.
  • Beyond Suffrage:  Suffrage has not been an automatic stepping stone to full equality for women.

    The following resource was recommended by Chelsey P:

To see our classroom lesson on Suffrage  Click Here


Ellen Dubois, “Woman Suffrage: The View from the Pacific,” Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 69, No. 4,

Marlene Le Gates, “Making Waves: A History of Feminism in Western Society,” Copp Clark, Ltd., 1996.

Robin Morgan, editor, “Sisterhood is Global: The International Women’s Movement Anthology,” Anchor Press, Doubleday, 1984.

Karen Offen, “European Feminism: 1700-1950: A Political History,” Stanford University Press, 2000.

“Suffrage & Beyond: International Feminist Perspectives”ø, edited by Caroline Daley & Melanie Nolan, New York University Press, 1994.

Lyn Reese is the author of all the information on this website
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