New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote in 1893, including indigenous Maori women. In Switzerland, some women were not granted the vote for almost another 100 years to follow.
While 1971 was the year Swiss women could officially vote in national elections, the canton of Appenzell Inner Rhodes did not allow women the vote in regional elections until 1990. But Switzerland was not the last European country: Portugal granted suffrage to women in 1976 and Liechtenstein in 1984.
That voting would distract women from their important domestic duties was the main social barrier – but it was Switzerland’s direct democracy with regional votes held in open-air assemblies, which largely dragged the vote for women on for so long. Men in Appenzell continued – almost unanimously – to vote against giving women suffrage until the federal government essentially forced Appenzell to allow women to vote in regional elections.
Elizabeth Blunschy became the first woman elected as the President of the National Council in 1977, paving the way for Swiss women in politics today like Ruth Dreifuss, Simonetta Sommaruga, Doris Leuthard and Micheline Calmy-Rey.
Selected from IMAGO’s curated collection for the anniversary of women’s suffrage in Switzerland on February 7, take a look at some highlights from the archive.