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Universal suffrage Swiss women, voting since 1971

The Swiss will be going to the polls this weekend to vote on four separate issues. It was only 45 years ago this month that men voted in favour of women’s suffrage. (SRF/

Despite Switzerland’s democratic tradition, the country was one of the last in Europe to give women the right to vote.

In 1868, a group women from canton Zurich first petitioned for women’s suffrage. The initiative was rejected in many cantons.

To bring about constitutional changes the unique Swiss system of direct democracy requires a national referendum. Thus Swiss women had to wait for men to decide to grant them the right to vote.

The first federal vote on the issue was in 1959 and was rejected by 67% of voters. Women had to wait until February 7, 1971, when suffrage was finally granted at the federal level.

The first cantons to allow women to cast their vote were Vaud and Neuchâtel in 1959. Laggard Appenzell Inner-Rhodes was the last canton to give in in 1990.

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