Economic reasons for female suffrage were utilized as well. One stressed that once women were full citizens they would be in a position to press for equal salaries. Also, womens economic independence depended on their ability to have a say in laws regarding their right to work and improvement in their working conditions.
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Wollstonecraft has been called the "first feminist," but some of her ideas reinforced traditional motherhood of a sort that later feminists sometimes reject. She did not challenge the assumption that a woman's most important duty was to be a mother; there is not much room in her theories for single women or women who refuse to marry. It is clear that the middle-class women she addresses are supposed to be married and be responsible mothers. The subordination of women resulted in their being poor mothers, she argued and observed, so education reform and a disavowal of the "natural" inferiority of women were crucial for their improvement as mothers. A bad mother will spoil her children because she wants their love and affection, will neglect them entirely while she is devoted to her own frivolous pursuits, or will tyrannize over them out of a desire to regain some control over her own life. By contrast, an educated woman will be a good mother for several reasons: she will inculcate civic virtue and duty; ably instruct them in the areas of study that matter; encourage her daughters and sons to be self-actualized; discipline them effectively and fairly; and demonstrate the type of respectful and harmonious marriage they should desire to emulate.
In Europe, Finland, Norway and Iceland were among the first to grant female suffrage. Most other western governments only extended suffrage to women during or just after WWI, even though womens rights had been widely debated in their societies for many decades.
Full suffrage occurs when all groups of women are included in national voting and can run for any political office. In most cases women won the right to vote in uneven stages. New Zealand in 1893 was first. Liberalism was a strong force in this pioneering land which increasingly rejected what it viewed as archaic attitudes from the Old World. The support of social reform issues, including temperance, gave New Zealand suffragists the edge they needed. The now famous Womens Suffrage Petition is credited with being a major force for this success. Signed by close to one quarter of the female adult population, the petition was the largest of its kind in New Zealand and other western countries. It is comprised of 546 sheets of paper, all glued together to form one continuous roll 274 metres long, with the signatures of over 10,000 adult women. A few Maori women signed, but at this time they mainly were concerned with achieving political participation rights for the whole tribe.
This means that major changes in womens political activities, other than exercising their right to vote, have been long in coming. Today, women are struggling to gain equal participation in political office alongside men. Of interest is the use in over 41 countries of parity quotas and quota laws to achieve political gender balance. Responding to strong pressure by womens organizations, gender quotas have appeared in many new constitutions, like the one of Rwanda, and recently in the constitution of Iraq. This means that a certain number of parliamentary seats are reserved for women. The seats are distributed among the political parties in proportion to the number of seats awarded in parliament. In South Africa, a municipal law stipulates that 50 percent of all candidates for the local office have to be women. India in 1992 enacted a 33 percent policy to reserve seats for women in Parliament and throughout the State Government. The final effectiveness of this policy is unknown, but so far, as many as one million women have gotten an opportunity to enter institutions as members and office bearers; many more have participated in elections and as campaigners for state legislatures. Most dramatic has been the change in the landscape of local politics. In some cases, women for the first time have sat with village leaders, and sometimes even had a turn heading village affairs.
In 1956 in Egypt, thirty-three years after feminists had first demanded suffrage, the revolutionary government granted women the right to vote. But from the start, the state and official Islam obstructed womens political rights by banning feminist organizations and suppressing the public expression of their views. Thus the same year that the state granted women the right to vote, women were suppressed as independent political actors.
Students at the all-black Alabama State University briefly organized a boycott in the spring of 1954. Then in December 1955, the Women's Political Council in Montgomery, Alabama, seized on the arrest of Rosa Parks to ignite a full-blown, citywide boycott of the buses. This was not even Parks's first violation of racial seating laws. Her calculated act was part of a burgeoning black social protest movement. She was the wife of gun-toting NAACP activist Ray Parks and had been trained in nonviolent direct action. Together they had long fought racial injustices in Alabama.
At least since Plessy v Ferguson (1896), public transportation was a vital site of struggle over racial justice. Black paying customers were relegated to the back of city buses, and black women in particular endured assault, humiliation, and even gunplay at the hands of white bus drivers and customers. But blacks found ways to respond to the shoving and pushing of white passengers: they boldly sat next to white women, refused to pay fares, and rang the bell for every stop with no one getting off. These subversive acts provided the infrastructure for more formal kinds of political action. As early as 1953, black church and social organizations had organized a bus boycott in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
National Needs Come First: In countries fighting for their independence from colonial rule there was pressure on women to wait their turn. Even Gandhi, who had brought women into the public struggle for self sufficiency from Great Britain, stated that although he wanted women to take their proper place by the side of men, the timing was wrong for a votes for women campaign; women instead should use their energies helping their men against the common foe. Women suffrage supporters, too, tended to be more nationalistic than feminist, arguing that votes for women were necessary so that they could imbue their children with ideas of nationalism.
Feminist and suffrage supporters in non-western regions tended to be accused of blindly imitating Western women, who were perceived as aggressive and shameless. Japanese womens internationalism was attacked using this very argument. In the years leading up to World War II, members of the Japanese Diet increasingly portrayed womens suffrage as immoral and as running counter to Japanese customs.
Fear of a Lose of Female rights. Some women and men worried that if the concept of male protection of women were broken, women would be forced to compete with men in areas which they were not prepared to. Giving women political independence would even change male/female roles in the family structure, severely damaging it.