Women and the vote

Page 5 – World suffrage timeline

First in the world

Although a number of other territories enfranchised women before 1893, New Zealand can justly claim to be the first self-governing country to grant the vote to all adult women.

Female descendants of the Bounty mutineers were allowed to vote for their ruling councils on Pitcairn Island from 1838, and on Norfolk Island after they settled there in 1856. The Isle of Man, an internally self-governing dependent territory of the British Crown, enfranchised women property owners in 1881. Women in the Cook Islands, then a British protectorate, were allowed to participate in elections for island councils and a federal parliament from 1893. This law was enacted several days after New Zealand’s Electoral Act, but Cook Islands women got to the polls first, on 14 October.

A handful of United States territories and states had enfranchised (European) women by 1893: the Territory of Wyoming in 1869 (confirmed on admission to statehood in 1890), the Territory of Utah in 1870 (annulled by the United States Congress in 1887, reinstated on admission to statehood in 1896), the Territory of Washington in 1883 (declared unconstitutional by the local Supreme Court in 1887), the Territory of Montana in 1887, and the State of Colorado in December 1893.

Australia was quick to follow New Zealand: South Australia enfranchised women in 1894, Western Australia did so in 1899, and the Australian Commonwealth government followed suit in 1902 (except for Aboriginal women).

It is very difficult to ascertain when women in a particular country gained the right to vote. This is especially true for less-developed countries. This chronology, which can only be a tentative list, was compiled by consulting a number of sources, some of which offered conflicting information: the dates given may have been for the year that suffrage was granted or the first time that women actually voted; while suffrage may have been limited to a specific group of women, this was not always noted.

1776–1807

  • New Jersey (US) – propertied women voted in elections from 1787, having had the right since 1776; they lost suffrage when universal male suffrage was introduced.

1838

  • Pitcairn Island (in 1856 the population moved to Norfolk Island)

1869

  • Wyoming Territory (US)

1870

  • Utah Territory (US) – abolished in 1887 and restored in 1896

1881

  • Isle of Man – propertied women

1893

  • Colorado (US)
  • Cook Islands
  • New Zealand

1894

  • South Australia – full colony/state suffrage and right to stand for Parliament

1896

  • Idaho (US)
  • Utah (US)

1899

  • Western Australia – full colony/state suffrage

1902

  • Australia – white women gained the federal franchise
  • New South Wales (Australia) – full state suffrage

1903

  • Tasmania (Australia) – full state suffrage

1905

  • Queensland (Australia) – full state suffrage

1906

  • Finland

1907

  • Norway – economic qualification

1908

  • Victoria (Australia) – full state suffrage

1910

  • Washington State (US)

1911

  • California (US)

1912

  • Arizona (US)
  • Kansas (US)
  • Oregon (US)

1913

  • Alaska (US)
  • Illinois (US) – limited to voting for president and offices created by statute
  • Norway – full suffrage

1914

  • Montana (US)
  • Nevada (US)

1915

  • Denmark
  • Iceland – women aged at least 40

1916

  • Alberta (Canada)
  • Manitoba (Canada)
  • Saskatchewan (Canada)

1917

  • Arkansas (US)
  • British Columbia (Canada)
  • Canada – federal vote for Euro-American women in the armed forces and close relatives of soldiers
  • Estonia
  • Indiana (US)
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Michigan (US)
  • Nebraska (US)
  • New York (US)
  • North Dakota (US) – presidential suffrage
  • Ohio (US) – lost later that year
  • Ontario (Canada)
  • Rhode Island (US)
  • Russia/Soviet Union

1918

  • Austria
  • Canada – federal vote for women of British or French extraction
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Germany
  • Hungary – limited suffrage
  • Luxembourg
  • Michigan (US)
  • New Brunswick (Canada)
  • Nova Scotia (Canada)
  • Oklahoma (US)
  • Poland
  • South Dakota (US)
  • Texas (US) – suffrage in primary elections
  • United Kingdom – married women, female householders and female university graduates aged at least 30

1919

  • Netherlands
  • Rhodesia – limited suffrage on the basis of a woman’s husband’s financial means, provided she was not married polygamously
  • Sweden

1920

  • Belgium – mothers and widows of soldiers who had died in the First World War 
  • Iceland – full suffrage
  • USA – some states used legal devices, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, to exclude African-Americans from voting.

1922

  • Ireland – full suffrage

1924

  • Mongolia

1928

  • United Kingdom – full suffrage

1929

  • Ecuador – limited suffrage

1930

  • South Africa – white women
  • Turkey

1931

  • Spain – lost under Franco from 1936; women did not vote again until 1976
  • Ceylon/Sri Lanka

1932

  • Brazil
  • Thailand
  • Uruguay

1933

  • Portugal – women who had completed secondary education

1934

  • Cuba

1935

  • India – limited suffrage based on education and income

1937

  • Philippines

1939

  • El Salvador

1941

  • Indonesia

1942

  • Dominican Republic

1944

  • France
  • Jamaica

1945

  • Bulgaria
  • Guatemala
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Panama
  • Trinidad and Tobago

1946

  • Albania
  • Ecuador – full suffrage
  • Liberia – property qualification
  • Malta
  • Portugal – women who were heads of household and married women who paid a certain amount of tax
  • Romania
  • Yugoslavia

1947

  • Argentina
  • Pakistan
  • Venezuela

1948

  • Belgium – full suffrage
  • Burma
  • Israel
  • South Korea

1949

  • Chile
  • China
  • Costa Rica
  • India – full suffrage
  • Syria – limited suffrage

1950

  • Haiti

1951

  • Antigua
  • Barbados
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • St Christopher (Kitts) and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Sierra Leone

1952

  • Bolivia
  • Greece

1953

  • Lebanon
  • Mexico
  • Syria – full suffrage, but after a coup d’état that year, rights reverted to the 1949 basis

1954

  • Belize
  • Gold Coast Colony/Ghana
  • Nigeria – federal suffrage for women in the Eastern Region

1955

  • Ethiopia
  • Honduras
  • Malaya/Malaysia
  • Nicaragua
  • Nigeria – federal suffrage for women in the Western Region who were taxpayers
  • Peru

1956

  • Egypt – compulsory voting for men but not for women
  • Honduras

1957

  • Colombia
  • Singapore

1958

  • Iraq
  • Mauritius
  • Paraguay
  • Tanganyika/Tanzania

1959

  • Nepal
  • Nigeria – federal suffrage for women in the South

1960

  • Canada – discrimination against various groups ends
  • Central African Republic
  • Cyprus
  • San Marino
  • The Gambia

1961

  • Rwanda
  • Somalia

1962

  • Australia – discrimination against Aborigines ends
  • Bahamas
  • Monaco

1963

  • Iran
  • Kenya
  • Mozambique – limited suffrage for women

1964

  • Afghanistan
  • Libya
  • Maldives
  • Sudan

1965

  • Burundi

1966

  • Fiji
  • Lesotho

1967

  • Seychelles
  • Zaire

1968

  • Nauru
  • Swaziland

1971

  • Gilbert Islands/Kiribati
  • Switzerland

1972

  • Syria – full suffrage

1975

  • Mozambique – full suffrage
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Portugal – full suffrage
  • Nigeria – federal suffrage for women in the North

1978

  • Tuvalu
  • Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia) – full suffrage

1980

  • Cape Verde

1984

  • Jordan
  • Liberia – full suffrage
  • Liechtenstein

1994

  • South Africa –full suffrage

This list of dates is from C. Daley and M. Nolan (eds), Suffrage and beyond: international feminist perspectives, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 1994. See also International Women’s Suffrage Milestones.

How to cite this page

'World suffrage timeline', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/womens-suffrage/world-suffrage-timeline, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 9-Jun-2014