Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Finland Lies about a Historic Suffrage Achievement Really? Finland? Yup

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Finland Lies about a Historic Suffrage Achievement Really? Finland? Yup

Article excerpt

What country first allowed women to stand in national parliamentary elections? Australia, in 1902, the year after the Commonwealth's formation. (And for anyone under a rock recently, Australia in June swore in its first female prime minister.) Finland so elevated its women (all of them, it claims) in 1906. But Finland officially claims the title outright.

Why? Ask Finland, which you'd think wouldn't lie or feel the need to, and refuse to right itself later. After all it was recently rated world's best country, not even without cause, by Newsweek. (Newsweek has its own factual problems, sometimes spectacular, in history, geography, science and math--but all I've seen came from incompetence, not lying, save perhaps its October 2008 claim that DNA tests simply proved that Thomas Jefferson procreated with Sally Hemings, when it maybe knew better. But my Newsweek sample will appear in another outlet).

I've repeatedly remonstrated with the Finns, twice face-to-face and twice by e-mail last spring with the cultural counselor in Washington, D.C., then in October face-to-face with the deputy chief of mission. Counselor Pekka Hako obfuscated, temporized, finally went silent. The embassy #2, Anne Lammila, dispensed with such tactics. She brazenly acknowledged the lie as government "policy" and said "It's not your place" to cite historical facts to Finland, let alone request correction--both appalling declarations that facts are not facts but toys of politics. Yeah, who am I, or you or anyone, to ask the world's best country to tell truth?

Researching this isn't hard. Typical Australian sites addressing the issue include these:

Here's what one ( says:

"In 1902 Australia became the first nation to nationally grant women the right to vote and the right to stand for parliament in national elections [...]The next country to allow women to stand was Finland, and by 1919 it had elected 19 women to the Eduskanta, the Finnish national parliament. By contrast, in Australia it took nearly 20 years before the first woman was elected to a state parliament."

As Australia also admits, "Franchise of Indigenous Australians at the federal level was not universal until 1962." 1902's grant was to nearly all, but not all, women (not to mention native men). Australia tells the truth, including properly crediting Finland for jumping quickly ahead, and noting Australia's slowness to realize the right it was first to create.

Further, Finland was, hello, still under Tsarist Russia in 1906, declaring independence in 1917--a country in spirit and culture, no doubt, but not in fact. Not only did Australia precede Finland in granting national female election rights, but it was a genuinely autonomous, self-governing democratic country at the time, however strong remained ties to Britain, the original modern parliamentary democracy.

Further deepening Australia's claim, "The self-governing colony of South Australia granted both universal suffrage and allowed women to stand for the colonial parliament in 1895." South Australia, with Adelaide, was never a penal colony and granted limited female voting rights as early as 1861. And while the Grand Duchy of Finland had more autonomy than other parts of Russia, it was from 1899 generally under Tsarist repression called Russification--hardly more self-governing than 1895 South Australia, even during a 1905-07 reassertion (including the 1906 voting law) taking advantage of Russia's 1905 setback against Japan.

Regarding excluding a minority from voting/election, it also bears note that Finland's ethnic and cultural divide with its extremely tiny Sami minority is hardly as severe and tragic as what European Australians have and have had with Aboriginals (who at Confederation represented less than 4 percent of population). …

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