Clio Talks Back

I.M.O.W.'s debut blog, Clio Talks Back, will change the way you think about women throughout history! Be informed and transformed by Clio Talks Back, written by the museum's resident historian Karen Offen.

Inspired by Clio, the Greek muse of History, and the museum's global online exhibitions Economica and Women, Power and Politics, Karen takes readers on a journey through time and place where women have shaped and changed our world. You will build your repertoire of rare trivia and conversation starters and occasionally hear from guest bloggers including everyone from leading historians in the field to the historical women themselves.

Read the entries, post a comment, and be inspired to create your own legacies to transform our world.


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PERSPECTIVES ON WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE IN THE WESTERN WORLD, 1780s-1990s

On August 26 women in the United States celebrate Women's Equality Day, commemorating the day on which women's vote received constitutional ratification.

Clio reminds viewers that in many countries throughout the western world women and some men insisted that women should vote and thereby exercise full citizenship.

Here are some of those voices, beginning in the 1780s in France:

“Is it not as sentient beings, capable of reason, having moral ideas, that men have rights? Then women should have exactly the same rights, and yet never, under any free constitution, have women exercised the right of citizenship. . . . The facts prove that men have or believe they have interests that are very different than those of women, because everywhere they have made oppressive laws against them, or at least have established a great inequality between the two sexes.”
The marquis de Condorcet (France, 1787)

“The representatives should have absolutely the same interests as those represented; therefore women should only be represented by women.... Why is it that the law is not the same for both? Why does one sex have everything and the other nothing?”
Madame B*** B*** (France, 1789)

“...it is a duty imperative upon her to deliberate with man in all affairs of government, for with man she has a concurrent jurisdiction over the things of the earth.”
R. J. Richardson (England, 1840)

“We are aware that it is said, that woman is virtually represented in Parliament, her interests being the same as those of man; but the many laws, which have been obliged to be passed to protect them from their nearest male relatives, are a sufficient answer.... They are evidently the production of men legislating for their own most obvious interests ... without the slightest reference to the injustice they were committing against women.”
Marion Kirkland Reid (England, 1843)

“Citoyennes, it is as Christians and mothers that women must demand the rank that belongs to them in the church, the state, and the family.... It is especially this sacred function as mother, which some insist is incompatible with the exercise of a citizen’s rights, that imposes on woman the duty of watching over the future of her children and confers on her the right to intervene in all the activities not only of civil life but of political life as well.”
Jeanne Deroin (France, 1849)

“... it is not only the general principles of justice that are infringed, or at least set aside, by the exclusion of women, merely as women, from any share in the representation; that exclusion is also repugnant to the particular principles of the British Constitution. It violates one of the oldest of our constitutional maxims ... that taxation and representation should be co-extensive. Do not women pay taxes?”
John Stuart Mill (England, 1867)

“How long are women to remain a wholly unrepresented body of the people? This is a question that has of late been agitated in England, and women in this colony read, watch, and reflect.... Why should not New Zealand also lead?... Why has a woman no power to vote, no right to vote, when she happens to possess all the requisites which legally qualify a man for that right?”
Femmina [Mary Muller] (New Zealand, 1869)

“Because man and woman are the complement of one another, we need woman’s thought in national affairs to make a safe and stable government.... Whither is a nation tending when brains count for less than bullion, and clowns make laws for queens?”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (USA, 1869)

“For me the beginning of all true progress in the woman question lies in women’s right to vote.... The stronger the emphasis on the difference between the sexes, the clearer the need for the specific representation of women.”
Hedwig Dohm (Germany, 1873)

“...a suffrage that allows you to exclude from the electoral lists nine million women is far too restrictive to bear the name universal.... Ladies, we must remind ourselves that the weapon of the vote will be for us, just as it is for man, the only means of obtaining the reforms we desire. As long as we remain excluded from civic life, men will attend to their own interests rather than to ours.”
Hubertine Auclert (France, 1878)

“The miracle has happened! On May the 29th the Finnish Diet agreed to an Imperial proposal from the Czar concerning changes in the constitution of Finland, which changes also include political suffrage and eligibility to the Diet for Women, married and unmarried, on the same conditions as for men.”
Baroness Alexandra Gripenberg (Finland, 1906)

“Women’s suffrage is the correlate of the economic emancipation of women from the household and of their economic independence from family owing to their professional work.... With the sharpening of the class struggle, the question of women’s suffrage rises in importance.”
Resolution of the International Socialist Women’s Conference
(Stuttgart, Germany, 1907)

“...the Government must not think that they can stop this agitation. It will go on.... We are here not because we are law-breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law-makers.”
Emmeline Pankhurst, WSPU (England, 1908)

“The great victory in California has sent a thrill of joy to woman Suffragists in every part of the world. For the women’s cause is not confined to one country, but is international, and success for some women somewhere is not merely a good omen for success for others elsewhere, but is of itself a success for all.”
Votes for Women (England, 1911)

“Parliaments have stopped laughing at woman suffrage, and politicians have begun to dodge! It is the inevitable premonition of coming victory.”
Carrie Chapman Catt
(International Woman Suffrage Association Conference, Budapest, 1913)

“How can it be said that women have not struggled and that it will take an epoch, long years of the Republic, in order to demonstrate their capacity? Why is it that the man, at the establishment of the Republic, has been granted his rights but those of the woman have been set aside?”
Clara Campoamor (Madrid, 1931)

“... the electoral ballot in the hands of the Catholic woman is an important means toward the fulfillment of her strict duty in conscience, especially at the present time.”
Pius XII (Vatican City, 1945)

“Extending over more than a century and including most nations of the globe, the cause of woman suffrage has been one of the great democratic forces in human history.”
Ellen Carol DuBois (New Left Review, 1989)

“Only 40,000 more women voters in the right places could have prevented the right-wing takeover of Congress in 1994. Only an increased turnout can take it back again in 1996.”
Gloria Steinem (Ms. Magazine, USA, 1996)


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