By Prof. Mary Elizabeth King, first published on Waging Nonviolence
One of the most extraordinary nonviolent, transnational movements of the modern age was the women’s suffrage movement of the first two decades of the 20th century. New Zealand first extended the franchise in the late 19th century—after two decades of organizing efforts. As the new century began, women’s suffrage movements gained strength in China, Iran, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), and Vietnam. Another 20 years and women were enfranchised in countries around the world, from Uruguay to Austria, the Netherlands to Turkey, and Germany to the United States. Few if any of those leading the campaigns for the ballot for women would have identified their approach as one of nonviolent action, nor would they have known its philosophical underpinnings or strategic wisdom. Like most who have turned to civil resistance, they did so because it was a direct method not reliant on representatives or agencies and a practical way to oppose an intolerable situation.