100 Years of Women’s Vote

A hundred years ago February 16th women exercised their right to vote in Austria for the first time.  In some quarters of society – the Catholic Church particularly – women’s political participation had been almost unthinkable. Even Marianne Heinisch, founder of the Austrian Women’s Party, suggested that they avoid “the dirty struggles” and stay out of active politics. Universal suffrage for men had been introduced in 1907 and efforts then refocused on the women. In March 1911 twenty thousand women marched on Vienna’s Ringstrasse to demand the vote.  The end of WWI and the fall of the Habsburg monarchy was a time of tectonic shift in Austrian society; the climate was right. November 12, 1918 Parlament passed the law enabling “all citizens regardless of gender” to vote and in the February elections women had a voice in Austrian politics for the first time. The results were for many disappointing: only 5% of the new parliamentarians were women.

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