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1971: Swiss women get the vote

Swiss women can now vote in federal elections and stand for parliament after a national referendum.

The official result shows 621,403 of the all-male electorate supported the vote for women and 323,596 were against.

All of the Swiss political parties, both houses of parliament, and many church and business leaders supported the vote for women.

The Swiss media has also welcomed the result. Tribune de Geneve said the referendum ended a status quo that had become "unjust, untenable and abused".

The poll was almost a complete reversal of a 1959 referendum, when women were refused the federal vote by a 2-1 majority.

'Children, Church and Kitchen'

This time round, political pundits were expecting a repeat performance with the rural and traditionally more conservative German-speaking cantons resisting the proposal.

The cultural perception of women's role in society being bound to 'kinder, kirche und kuche' (children, church and kitchen) remains popular in the German-speaking regions.

Even one women's group had argued against change. The Swiss Women Against Voting Rights Association campaigned on the grounds that women's responsibilities lie in the household.

But out of 25 of the country's administrative regions, only five cantons and three half-cantons voted against universal female suffrage.

Although Swiss women can now vote in most regional and national elections, they continue to face discrimination under Swiss law.

At home, men retain control of their wives' property and capital, and the husband has the right to decide where he and his wife will reside.

All political parties have now pledged to offer women candidates in the election of the 200 member National Council (lower house of parliament) in October.

In Context
The change in the Swiss constitution more than doubled the country's electorate.

The following June Swiss women (approximately 1.85 million) had their first chance to vote on national issues - the environment and taxation - but turnout by both sexes was low.

In national elections later that year 11 women became the first female deputies to join the National Council.

There were no dramatic upsets in the first national elections women participated in - most tended to side with their men - and the coalition government at the time remained largely the same.

Universal suffrage was granted in the UK in 1928. In the USA, universal suffrage was established with the 19th amendment to the constitution in 1920.

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