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Women’s Voting Rights

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exhibition opening: 11.23.2018 (Friday), 6 PM
the exhibition is open until 12.30.2018, from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 AM to 5 PM
tickets: exhibition opening and Sunday – free entry, other days – 4 PLN

The information about Polish women getting voting rights in November 1918 is usually accompanied by a commentary on the modernity of the Polish state. We learn that women gained electoral rights in Poland earlier than citizens of Great Britain and the United States. Rarely, however, we see the information that there was an equivalent of the British and American suffragette movement in the Polish lands – the movement of emancipated women, who for several dozen years had been demanding for women’s voting rights. This had not been a popular postulate until the outbreak of the World War I, however, the work of women in favor of Polish independence convinced politicians and public opinion. Even conservative parties saw a significant electorate in women. In free Poland, the voice of women was also needed due to the territorial plebiscites in Upper Silesia, and Warmia and Masuria. However, the efforts of emancipated women had made the issue of women’s political rights an object of public debate already at the beginning of the 20th century.

Today, active and passive electoral rights for all citizens seem obvious. Meanwhile, in the 19th-century representative democracies, the census suffrage was in force – land ownership and payment of the appropriate tax were the conditions for obtaining the right to vote. That condition meant that a few percent of the population at best was entitled to vote. The socialist movement, which demanded universal suffrage, seemed to be an obvious ally of emancipants in the fight for women’s electoral rights. It is worth remembering, however, that at first the concept of universal suffrage did not include women. In such a form, universal suffrage was introduced in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1907. Galician emancipation activists drew attention to the increasingly glaring injustice – uneducated men were entitled to vote, while women, who had been able to study since 1897, still had no voting rights. It were the emancipated women who were carrying out public awareness campaigns that “voting is universal only when women vote!”.

The exhibition presents the history of the fight for women’s voting rights. We present the most important activists and organizations for the voting rights of women, we talk about the circumstances that led the female Poles to get suffrage in the first weeks of independence. We would also like to remind you about Białystok’s emancipation and political activity of Białystok women over 100 years ago.

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