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Saturday, September 25, 2021
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A Short History on the Women’s Suffrage in the Philippines

SunStar File

IN A world where men dominated, and quite frankly continue to dominate, women had to fight, and continue to fight, for their place.

The Philippines has come a long way before women were able to exercise their rights.

Before women were allowed to vote and take part in politics, the 1935 Constitution only allowed male Filipino citizens aged 21 or older to vote.

Hoping to ignite a suffrage movement in the country, American suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt visited the Philippines in 1912.

Concepcion Felix de Calderon, one of the earliest feminist and human rights activist in the country, and Purificacion "Pura" Villanueva Kalaw, the first Queen of Manila Carnival (now Miss Philippines and Binibining Pilipinas) and the founder of Asociacion Feminista Ilongga, together with many other women, created the "Society for the Advancement of Women."

As Filipino women became more active in the political affairs of the country in 1920, Felix together with two other women, presented a petition to legislators that they are allowed to vote. The petition was signed by 18,000 women.

READ MORE: International Women's Day 2021: 5 influential Filipinas who made a difference

The women were given the right to vote in 1933 but since the Philippine Commonwealth began, they had to start all over again.

Fighting once again for their right to suffrage, Rosa Sevilla de Alvero, Concepcion Felix de Calderon, Constancia Poblete, Purificacion "Pura" Villanueva Kalaw, Paz Mendoza Guazon, Pilar Hidalgo Lim, and Jose Llanes Escoda got together and lobbied for their rights.

Article V of the 1935 Constitution mentioned that the National Assembly may extend the right of suffrage to women if more than 300,000 women, 'possessing the necessary qualifications shall vote affirmatively on the question.'

The General Council of Women exceeded the Constitution's requirement of 300,000 votes in agreement. On April 30, 1937, they rounded up 447,725 votes in favor of women's suffrage rights.

Filipinas celebrated their success on September 17, 1937, as Philippine President of the Philippine Commonwealth Manuel L. Quezon signed it into law.

It’s been 84 years since women were given the right to be vocal, political, and to make their votes count.

As we commemorate International Women’s Month in March, and as we register to vote for the upcoming election, let us honor the first women who fought for the rights women of today enjoy and are privileged to have.


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