On This Day - September 19th

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Women's suffrage is the right of women to vote in elections. Beginning in the late 19th century, besides women working for broad-based economic and political equality and for social reforms, women sought to change voting laws to allow them to vote. National and international organizations formed to coordinate efforts towards that objective, especially the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (founded in 1904 in Berlin, Germany), as well as for equal civil rights for women.

Women who owned property gained the right to vote in the Isle of Man in 1881, but in 1893, all women in the then British colony of New Zealand were granted the right to vote.

Kate Sheppard (pictured) was the most prominent member of New Zealand's women's suffrage movement.

The Electoral Bill granting women the franchise was given Royal Assent by Governor Lord Glasgow on 19 September 1893. Women voted for the first time in the election held on 28 November 1893 (elections for the Māori electorates were held on 20 December). Also in 1893, Elizabeth Yates became Mayor of Onehunga, the first time such a post had been held by a woman anywhere in the British Empire.

Most major Western powers extended voting rights to women in the interwar period, including Canada (1917), Britain and Germany (1918), Austria and the Netherlands (1919) and the United States (1920). Notable exceptions in Europe were France, where women could not vote until 1944, Greece (1952), and Switzerland (1971).

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