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Celebrating suffrage: the long struggle for women's right to vote

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Celebrating suffrage: the long struggle for women's right to vote


When a woman casts a ballot these days, she may take for granted how many women before her had to fight, suffer and – sometimes – die to gain that right.

In the Western world, the struggle for the women’s right to vote began with the “suffragettes”. They were the members of women’s suffrage (right to vote) movements that developed in the late 19th to early 20th century, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. The suffragettes in Britain led a campaign that, for its era, was quite aggressive; they committed acts such as arson and chained themselves to railings. One of their favourite tricks was to stalk and stop politicians on the street. If the politician refused to talk to them, the suffragettes would make a big scene, shouting and arguing, so that when the police showed up to drag them away, there was a large crowd to hear their slogan: “Votes for women!” Many suffragettes were imprisoned; some had to be force-fed after going on hunger strike.

On June 4, 1913 – exactly 100 years ago – Emily Davison, a militant activist who fought for women’s suffrage in Britain, stepped in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby to attract attention to the campaign for women’s right to vote. She died four days later. Today’s timeline shows the history of women’s suffrage, and its most significant and interesting breakthrough moments.

And the battle is not over yet, as there still countries today where women are denied the right to express themselves through the ballot box…

Photo Credit: A Masai woman walks out of a polling station after casting her ballot paper during presidential and parliamentary elections near the town of Magadi, some 85 km (53 miles) south of Nairobi, Kenya. March 4, 2013. Reuters

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