Wednesday marks the 95th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States. At the same time, one of the last countries to deny women the vote is preparing to open its polls: this December, women will vote in Saudi Arabia for the first time. This achievement, like the ones that came before it, wasn’t handed to Saudi women, who have been pressuring their government for years. Around the world, women have only won suffrage because they’ve demanded it. “There’s no other movement for women’s rights that’s as international as votes for women,” says Ellen DuBois, distinguished professor of history and gender studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. A century ago, American women were deep into their own chapter of the movement—and closing in on victory. The first international votes for women came sporadically during the 19th century. Women in Sweden and Scotland won some local voting rights, and Great Britain opened local elections—but only to unmarried women who also owned property. Then, in 1893, women in New Zealand won the full right to vote.
By this time, American suffragists had been campaigning for decades (Susan B. Anthony was famously arrested for voting in 1872), and they had won suffrage in several western states. But for almost as long as they’d been fighting, anti-suffrage organizations had been fighting back—mocking the message and writing the women off as unattractive man-haters.
Suffragists responded with their own propaganda and well-publicized demonstrations. They burned copies of President Woodrow Wilson’s speeches outside the White House, and chained themselves to the gates. British activists, whom American women were allied with, were even more radical: they smashed windows, set fire to buildings, and planted a bomb in a chancellor’s unfinished house.
Full Article: From the U.S. to Saudi Arabia, Women Had to Fight to Vote.