Women’s Rights and Female Equality; key historical events

Page last modified 20/9/2020


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Male-Female Literacy Differential Map. Compare the relative literacy levels for women and men across the world. Overall adult literacy rates here.


Colour key:


Countries (female suffrage)

Education (open to women)

Female suffrage movement

Withdrawal of female suffrage

Equality in sport


Female enfranchisement (dates, by country) – see Appendix 1

Family Legal Rights – children, divorce, property – see Appendix 2

(For Abortion and Birth Control see Morals).

First woman in selected roles – see Appendix 3


What constitutes sexual harassment – chart by age, sex and country


9/10/2012, The Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head whilst travelling home on a school bus, for insisting that girls had a right to education. She survived, continued campaigning, and in 2014 became the youngest person to date to receive the Nobel prize.

29/1/1993. The US Census Bureau announced that the number of women in managerial jobs had risen 95% between 1980 and 1990, to 6.2 million.

25/9/1988, In the USA, Barbara Harris, a divorcee, was elected first woman bishop in the Anglican Church, to serve as Bishop of Massachusetts (inaugurated 11/2/1989).

26/2/1986, The European Court ruled that the retirement age for men and women should be the same. The British Government did nothing to equalise retirement ages or pension rights.

27/12/1975, In the UK, the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act came into force.

1972, The first rape crisis centres were opened in the USA.

6/3/1971. Over 4,000 women’s liberation marchers demonstrated in London. They marched from Hyde Park to 10 Downing Street.

1/1970, San Diego College, USA, put on the world’s first Woman’s Studies programme. Cornell followed suit in 1970 and by 2000 there were over 700 Womsn’s Studies departments in the USA alone. The studies raised the profile of feminism, and of women in academis. Gender Studies, often incorporating Queer Studies, is the successor to this programme in the 21st century.

26/8/1970, A National Women’s Strike caused chaos in New York.

9/2/1970, The UK Parliament said men and women would receive equal pay by 1976.

11/2/1969. In the UK, female workers at the Ford car plant won equal pay with male workers.

10/6/1963, The USA passed the Equal Pay Act, forcing employers to pay the same rate to men and women doing the same-skilled job for the same number of hours.

27/9/1960, Death of Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst, suffragette.

1958, In Morocco, women wqere now allowed to choose their own husbands and polygamy was restricted.

13/2/1958, The suffragette, Dame Christobel Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, died (born 1880).

1/1/1958, In Tunisia, polygamy was abolished.

4/3/1955, The Burnham Commission recommended equal salaries for men and women teachers; another step towards equality of pay between the sexes.

16/6/1953, Margaret Bondfield, British Women’s Rights activist, died aged 80.

16/5/1952. The British Parliament voted in favour of equal pay for women.

1949, Death of Sarojini Naidu, Indian feminist, politician and poet. Born in 1879, she campaigned for the abolition of purdah. She was Governor of the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh) from Indian independence in 1947.

29/1/1939, Germaine Greer, Australian writer, was born in Melbourne.

26/8/1935, Geraldine A Ferraro, first woman to be nominated for Vice Presidency of the US (with Walter Mondale, Democrats, in 1984) was born.

6/12/1933. Germany planned to abolish women’s suffrage.

5/8/1929, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, British feminist activist, died aged 82.

14/6/1928. Emmeline Pankhurst, suffragette, born 13/2/1858, died.

7/5/1928. In Britain, women aged between 21 and 30 won equal suffrage in elections. This was known as the ‘flapper’s vote’. The women’s voting age in Britain had previously been 30.

8/12/1923. In the UK 8 women were now MPs. The British general election resulted in a hung Parliament.

18/7/1923, In Britain, the Matrimonial Causes Act gave women equality in divorce cases.

1922, US magazine Vanity Fair coined the term ‘flapper’ for a young woman who abjured femininity, dressed provocatively, and smoked.

4/2/1921, Betty Friedan was born, as Betty Naomi Goldstein, in Peoria, Illinois. She was a leading US feminist, and organised the Women’s Strike for Equality (26/8/1970) to raise awareness of feminist issues.

1920, Death of Inessa Armand (born 1875) champion of women’s rights in Soviet Russia. She became a political ally of Lenin in 1905, and in 1919 set up Zhenotdel, the women’s section of the Societ Communist Party, shortly before dying of cholera and overwork. Zhenotdel continued until 1930.

23/12/1919, In Britain, the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Bill was passed, opening up many professions to women.

14/12/1918, Women aged over 30 voted in a General Election in Britain for the first time. Women could also stand as candidates in UK General Elections for the first time. 17 stood but only one was elected.

19/9/1918, In Britain a Government commission investigated equal pay for women.

19/6/1917, Large Commons vote in favour of giving women over 30 the vote.

29/3/1917, In Britain, Lloyd George announced plans to give women over 30 the vote.

8/9/1916, US President Woodrow Wilson promised women the vote.

1/1/1916, In Britain, women’s employment had risen by two million over the past 12 months.

10/11/1915, A survey showed that women working in UK factories have enabled production to rise by 250%.

11/9/1915. The first Women’s Institute in Britain was formed, in Anglesey, Wales.  The first Women’s Institute was founded in Canada in 1897.

24/1/1915. 1,000 British suffragettes arrived in France to fill factory jobs vacated by men away on the Front.

12/1/1915. The US Congress defeated a Bill for women's suffrage.

11/6/1914. Bomb outrage by suffragettes in Westminster Abbey.

10/6/1914, Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested for the 8th time.

22/5/1914. Suffragettes protested outside Buckingham Palace. Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested as she tried to present a petition.

6/5/1914. The House of Lords rejected the Women's Enfranchisement Bill.

17/4/1914. A suffragette bomb destroyed the pier at Great Yarmouth.

10/3/1914. Suffragettes rioted in London. Mary Richardson, militant suffragette, attacked Velasquez’s Rokeby Venus in London’s National Gallery with a meat cleaver.

6/1/1914. Suffragettes burned down a church near Henley on Thames.

3/1/1914. The suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst was re-arrested. This was under the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act which enabled the UK government to release suffragette hunger strikers from prison so they would not die and become martyrs, only to re-arrest them when they recovered.

4/12/1913, Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested at Plymouth on her return from the USA.

20/10/1913, Emmeline Pankhurst was released as US President Wilson reversed her deportation order.

8/7/1913, Sylvia Pankhurst sentenced to three months in prison.

14/6/1913, Funeral of Emily Davidson, suffragette, see 4/6/1913.

4/6/1913, Emily Davidson, a suffragette, born 1872, was trampled when she fell under King George V’s horse, Anner, at Tattenham Corner in the Derby Races, Epsom.  She died from her inquiries on 8/6/1913, and her funeral was on 14/6/1913. She intended only to grab the horse’s reins as it approached the winning post, but her publicity stunt went tragically wrong.

15/5/1913, The Home Secretary banned public meetings by suffragettes.

7/5/1913. A suffragette bomb was found in St Paul’s Cathedral.

3/4/1913. The suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was jailed for 3 years for inciting her supporters to place bombs at Lloyd George’s house.

2/3/1913. A mob attacked suffragettes in London's Hyde Park.

25/2/1913. In the UK, suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst went on trial accused of the bomb explosion at Lloyd Georges house (19/2/1913). Mrs Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903 to press for voting rights for British women; women in Australia and New Zealand already had the vote. The WSPU was adopting increasingly militant tactics.

19/2/1913, A bomb exploded at Lloyd George’s house; nobody was hurt. On 24/2/1913 Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested in connection with this incident.

5/2/1913, Sylvia Pankhurst began a hunger strike whilst in prison.

16/11/1912. Suffragettes, who had walked from Edinburgh to London, presented a petition to the Prime Minister.

28/6/1912, The suffragettes began a window-smashing campaign at Post Offices and Labour Exchanges.

25/6/1912, Asquith was attacked in the Commons over the force-feeding of suffragettes on hunger strike in prison.

5/3/1912, British police raided the offices of the Women’s Social and Political Union.

4/3/1912, 96 women were arrested after a suffragette raid on the House of Commons.

1/3/1912, Suffragettes smashed windows in the West End of London. Co-ordinated attacks by groups of women with stones or hammers hidden under their muffs saw a trail of destruction emerge within 20 minutes from Oxford Street to The Strand and Picadilly;  two women also threw stones at 10 Downing Street. 120 were arrested, including Emmeline Pankhurst. Suffragette militancy had increased after they saw the Government grant concessions to striking railworkers and miners, after strikes had escalated into civil disorder.

3/1/1912, The UK Cabinet was divided over votes for women. 

1911, A Japanese Women’s Liberation Movement was started by Racho Hiratsuka.

1/11/1911. The first edition of Woman’s Weekly was published. See 2/11/1903, Daily Mirror as woman’s newspaper. 17/6/1911. In the UK, 60,000 women demonstrated for women’s suffrage, marching through London to a meeting at the Albert Hall.

18/11/1910, Suffragettes attacked the House of Commons; 119 people were arrested.

14/11/1910. There were more than 100 arrests when suffragettes tried to storm the House of Commons.

28/11/1909, In France, a law was passed giving pregnant women 8 weeks maternity leave.

28/9/1909. London confirmed that suffragettes were being force-fed.

29/6/1909. 120 suffragettes arrested outside the Houses of Parliament, London.

9/2/1909. In London a court ruled that a woman could not have a divorce even if her husband had deserted her.

22/12/1908. In New York, Katie Mulcaney became the first woman arrested under a new law prohibiting women from smoking in public.

24/10/1908. The suffragettes Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel were jailed.

21/10/1908. Over London the suffragettes made the first ever leaflet raid, hiring an airship and throwing out leaflets demanding ‘Votes for Women!’.

30/6/1908. Suffragettes attempted to present a petition to the UK Prime Minister. When he refused, windows at his residence were broken.

21/6/1908, A crowd of 230,000 in Hyde Park demonstrated for votes for women.

13/6/1908, Suffragettes staged a march from The Embankment to the Albert Hall.

6/6/1908. France passed a law decreeing that divorce was automatic after three year’s separation.

11/2/1908, Suffragettes attempted to force entry to the House of Commons.

17/1/1908, Suffragettes raided 10 Downing Street, London, during a Cabinet meeting.

9/1/1908, Simone de Beauvoir, French feminist writer and philosopher, was born (died 1986).

16/11/1907. Suffragettes shouted down Herbert Asquith, Chancellor of the Exchequer, at a meeting in Warwickshire. An Act was passed in 1907 allowing women to sit as councillors, but they still lacked the vote. Despite divisions within the Women’s Social and Political Union, with some members seeing Mrs Pankhurst as too domineering, the campaign for female suffrage continued unabated.

10/10/1907, Demonstrations and strikes in Budapest, Hungary, as Parliament opened there, demanding universal adult suffrage.

22/3/1907. 75 suffragettes jailed in Britain for refusing to pay fines.

15/3/1907. The Finns elected their first woman MP; in Britain, women still had not got the vote.

8/3/1907, Keir Hardie’s Women’s Enfranchisement Bill was defeated in the House of Commons.

13/2/1907, A large crowd of suffragettes stormed the Houses of Parliament as they attempted to hand a petition to the Government. It took a battalion of mounted police five hours to subdue the demonstration; 57 suffragettes were arrested, including Emmeline and Christine Pankhurst, but 15 of them did manage to enter the Commons.

25/12/1906, Suffragettes in London’s Holloway Prison refused Christmas meals.

6/11/1906. Sylvia Pankhurst, suffragette, released from prison.

24/10/1906. 11 suffragettes were jailed for demonstrating in London, after refusing to pay £10 fines, or even acknowledge the court. Prison achieved martyrdom for the women.

23/10/1906, Women suffragettes demonstrated in the outer lobby of the House of Commons. 10 were arrested and charged the following day.

23/6/1906, A deputation demanding votes for women, representing 500,000 women, met the British Prime Minister.

14/6/1906, In the UK, a Parliamentary Bill was proposed to ban women from dangerous sports after a woman died in a parachuting accident.

17/4/1906. The British Labour Party called for universal female suffrage.

13/3/1906, Susan B Anthony, American pioneer of women’s suffrage, died aged 86.

14/2/1906, 54 were arrested as suffragettes fought police outside the British Parliament.

14/12/1905, UK Trade Unions called for universal suffrage, an eight hour working day, and old age pensions.

14/10/1905. The suffragettes Emmeline Pankhurst and Annie Kenney opted to go to prison for seven days rather than pay a fine for assaulting a policeman. The assault was at a political meeting at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, where a leading Liberal politician, Sir Edward Grey, was making a speech.

12/5/1905. A Bill to give British women the right to vote failed; it was talked out of time. Under Parliamentary rules, a Bill is lost if MPs are still debating it when the House is due to adjourn.

1904, Death of Raden Adjeng Kartini, Javanese aristocrat who was one of the first agitators for equal rights for Indonesian women. Born 1879, she died soon after the birth of her first child.

2/11/1903. The Daily Mirror was first published in London, Britain, intended as a daily paper for women. See 1/11/1911, Woman’s Weekly first published.

19/10/1903, At 62 Nelson Street, Chorlton in Medlock, near Manchester, the home of Emmeline Pankhurst, the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union) was officially founded; its motto ‘Deeds not Words, to fight for female suffrage. In 1987 it became the Pankhurst Centre.

10/10/1903, Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst formed the Women’s Social and Political Union to fight for female emancipation in Britain.”Deeds not Words” was the motto of the new group, after efforts to persuade some MPs to back Parliamentary reform bore no fruit.

26/10/1902, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, American leader of the women’s suffrage movement, died aged 86.

18/2/1902, In Britain, a petition demanding votes for women was presented to Parliament by over 37,000 female textile workers.

2/1//1902, Women's foot-binding was outlawed in China.

31/5/1895, Emily Faithfull died (born 1835), In 1863 she began publishing a monthly periodical, The Victoria Magazine, campaigning for the right of women to remunerative employment.

11/6/1891, Barbara Bodichon, who promoted education and other rights for women, died in Robertsbridge Sussex (born in Watlington, Norfolk 8/4/1827).

1897, In Britain the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies was set up, an umbrella group of existing Suffrage Societies with Mrs Millicent Fawcett as President.

1894, In Britain, the Local Government Act gave women the right to vote in parish council elections.

30/12/1894, Amelia Bloomer, American social reformer, campaigner for temperance and women’s rights, died.

18/10/1893, Lucy Stone, American campaigner for women’s rights, died.

2/11/1889, Suffragettes Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were arrested whilst attempting to vote in the national elections.

2/11/1880, The suffragettes Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton attempted to vote in an election in New Jersey, USA, but were stopped by a polling booth inspector.

22/9/1880, The suffragette Christobel Pankhurst was born, the daughter of Emmeline.

24/5/1879, William Lloyd Harrison, American campaigner for abolition of slavery and for women’s suffrage, died in New York.

1870, The Women’s Suffrage Journal was founded by Lydia Ernestine Becker (1827-1890).

1/1/1868, In New York, Susan B Anthony began publication of a suffragist journal called The Revolution.

26/11/1867, Mrs Lily Maxwell of Manchester, who had been placed on the electoral register by mistake, was escorted buy a police bodyguard to the voting booth to protect her from opponents to women’s suffrage.

9/1/1859, Carrie Chapman, suffragette, was born.

14/7/1858, The suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was born in Manchester, as Emmeline Goulden.

19/7/1848. At the first women’s rights convention, at Seneca Falls, New York State, female rights campaigner Amelia Bloomer, born on 27/5/1818 in New York, introduced ‘bloomers’ to the world. She described these as ‘the lower part of a rational female dress’. The wearing of trousers by a woman caused much concern. She was campaigning for women’s equality in voting, religion, marriage, work, education, and society. New York, in 1848, passed the Married Women’s Property Act allowing divorced women to keep some of their possessions.

21/1/1840, Sophia Jex-Blake, champion of women’s rights, was born.

8/4/1827, Barbara Bodichon, who promoted education and other rights for women, was born in Watlington, Norfolk (died in Robertsbridge Sussex, 11/6/1891).

15/2/1820, Susan Anthony, American social reformer and champion of women’s suffrage, was born in Adams, Massachusetts.

13/8/1818, Lucy Stone, US feminist and reformer, was born in West Brookfield, Massachusetts.

27/5/1818, Amelia Bloomer, women’s’ rights campaigner, was born in Homer, New York (died 30/12/1894). She designed the loose trousers for women now known as bloomers.

12/11/1815, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, US women’s rights campaigner, was born in Johnstown, New York, as Elizabeth Cady.

10/9/1797, Mary Wollstonecraft, early feminist and author of Vindication and the Rights of Woman, died this day.

1792, Mary Wollstonecraft published ‘Vindication of the Rights of Women’, setting out the need for equality of women in politics and civil life.

27/4/1759, Birth of Mary Wollstonecraft, English writer, political radical and feminist.

27/6/1693. The Ladies Mercury, the first magazine for women, was published.

16/4/1689, Death of Aphra Benn, British novelist and early feminist.

1317, The Salic Law in France prohibited women from succeeding to the throne.


Appendix 1 – Female enfranchisement (dates by country)

17/5/2005, Kuwaiti women were granted the right to vote.

2/2/1986, Women voted for the first time in Liechtenstein. They were given the vote in 1984.

1974, Women in Jordan received the vote.

7/2/1971, Swiss men voted in favour of women being allowed to vote in federal elections and to stand for Parliament. See 1/2/1959.

9/1969, The males of the Canton of Schaffhausen rejected votes for women.

1/2/1959. Swiss referendum turned down votes for women.  But see 7/2/1971.

5/5/1958, Women in Tunisia were allowed to vote in municipal elections for the first time,

1/12/1957, Women in Colombia voted for the first time,

1950, Women in Costa Rica received the vote.

1945, Women in Japan received the vote. They voted for the first time on 3/5/1947.

21/4/1944, In France, women got equal voting rights with men.

1/9/1935. Mexico announced it would give women workers the vote.

6/12/1934, Turkey gave universal suffrage to all men and women over 21.

1932, Women in Spain received the vote.

19/5/1930. In South Africa, women were given the vote.

13/11/1923, In Italy, Mussolini introduced a Bill giving women the vote.

1921, Sweden introduced universal suffrage, with the voting age lowered from 24 to 23.

1920, Canada introduced universal suffrage, with a voting age of 21.

26/8/1920. Under the 19th Amendment, women received the vote in the USA.

1919, Women got the vote in  Poland, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, and the Weimar Republic (Germany)

30/11/1919, Women were allowed to vote for the first time in French elections.

1918, Women in Germany received the vote. Michigan, South Dakota and Oklahoma gave women the vote.

6/2/1918. Married women in Britain aged over 30 got the vote, as did all men over 21, under the Representation of the People Act. See 14/12/1918.

10/1/1918, In Britain the House of Lords approved the Representation of the People Bill, giving women the vote. In Washington the House of Representatives also voted in favour of suffrage for women.

1917, Russia gave women the vote, as did Armenia, Azerbaijan and Estonia.

1917, New York State gave women the vote.

1915, King Christian X of Denmark (1870-1947, King 1912-47) signed a new constitution giving women the vote.

29/6/1913. Women got equal voting rights with men in Norway.

5/11/1912, Women gained the vote in the US States of Arizona, Kansas and Wisconsin.

1911, Women recieved the vote in California.

30/4/1911. Women got the vote in Portugal.

4/4/1911, Massachusetts refused to give women the right to vote.

14/6/1907, Norway gave women the vote (General Elections).

1/11/1907, The first women councillors were elected in England, in local elections.

1906, In Britain, the term ‘suffragette’ was coined to describe women campaigning for the vote.

7/1906, Hungary introduced a universal suffrage Bill.

7/3/1906. Finland extended suffrage to all tax paying men and women aged over 24.

28/11/1905. Austria gained universal suffrage.

2/2/1904, Christabel Pankhurst entered the Free Trade Hall in Manchester where Liberal MP Winston Churchill was due to speak. She called for an amendment on women’s suffrage, and was ejected.

10/10/1903. Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst formed the Women’s Social and Political Union to fight for female emancipation in Britain.”Deeds not Words” was the motto of the new group, after efforts to persuade some MPs to back Parliamentary reform bore no fruit.

1903, Women got the vote in Connecticut State elections.

1902, Women got the vote in Australia.

26/8/21/12/1901. In Norway, women voted for the first time. (municipal elections).

1895, Women got the vote in South Australia.

28/11/1893, Women first voted in New Zealand, at the General Election, see 19/9/1893.

19/9/1893. New Zealand became the first country to allow women the vote. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union had been pressing for this for 8 years, and had presented three petitions to the House of Representatives. Each time the number of signatures rose, until a record 31,872 names swayed the House. Despite an unscrupulous liquor lobby, the WCTU won and intended to press for women’s votes in other countries.  See 28/11/1893.

1881, Unmarried women with property got the vote on the Isle of Man.

1870, In the UK, the Women’s Suffrage Journal was founded.

1870, Utah granted full suffrage to women,

10/12/1869. Wyoming became the first USA State to grant women the vote (in local elections).

1867, The National Society for Women’s Suffrage was cofounded in the UK by Lydia Becker.

1856, Women got the vote on Norfolk Island.

1853, A petition to enfranchise women was presented to the Massachusetts Government.

1838, Women got the vote on Pitcairn Island.

1755, Women got the vote in the Corsican Republic,


Appendix 2 - Family Legal Rights – children, divorce, property (For Abortion and Birth Control see Morals).

2004, Divorce was legalised in Chile.

27/2/1997, Divorce became legal in Ireland.

27/11/1995, In Ireland, voters narrowly approved a limited no-fault provision for divorce, for couples who had lived apart for four of the previous five years, by a majority of 9,114 out of 1.63 million votes. There had been a constitutional ban on divorce since 1937.

1991, Colombia legalised divorce.

23/10/1991. The House of Lords ruled that men could be legally convicted of raping their wives. The group Women Against Rape had been campaigning for this move since 1977.

19/4/1991. English legal history was made in Winchester when the first man to be convicted of raping his wife whilst they were still living together was jailed for 5 years.

18/12/1970. Divorce became legal in Italy.

13/6/1969, In the UK, the Divorce Law Reform Bill received its third reading. It provided for a divorce after 2 years separation with mutual consent, or after five years without this consent. ‘Irretreivable breakdown’ was now acceptable as grounds for ending a marriage, without either oparty having to prove ‘blame’, e.g. adultery.

1968, In Italy, grounds for divorce on the basis of infidelity were made equal between the two sexes. Previously, any female infidelity was grounds for divorce, but male infidelity had to be ‘open and notorious’.

1963, Married women in France were now allowed to open their own bank account without their hussband’s permission.

1962, Marital rape became a criminal offence in Sweden.

1958, In Morocco, women gained the right to choose their own husbands, and polygamy in the country was restricted.

14/12/1954, Divorce was legalised in Argentina.

9/3/1951. In the UK, separation for seven years was made grounds for divorce.

28/10/1943. The UK Court of Appeal ruled that money saved from the housekeeping by a wife belonged to the husband.

1938, The property of married women in France was no longer administered by their husbands; they no longer required their husband’s permission to work or go to university. French women were now allowed to testify in a Court of Law.

1937, In Britain the Divorce Act made desertion and insanity grounds for divorce, by either party.

1933, In Sweden, women were allowed to practise law.

16/10/1931. Spain legalised divorce.

10/3/1929. Egyptian women were granted limited rights of divorce.

27/8/1927, Emily Gowan Murphy (maiden name Ferguson, born 14/3/1868 in Cookstown, Ontario), petitioned the Canadian Government to have women recognised as full legal ‘persons’. She had been instrumental in passing the Dower Act (1911),giving women a share in their husband’s property, and in 1916 Murphy had been appointed as the first woman magistrate in the British Empire. However on her first day as magistrate, a lawyer challenged her appointment as illegal as she was not a ‘person’ under Canadian law. Murphy began a legal battle to overturn this law, petitioning the Canadian Government this day. On 14/3/1928 the Supreme Court of Canada decided against Murphy and four other campaigners, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Henrrietta Muir and  Louise McKinney. The’Famous Five’ took their case to the British Privy Council, where they finally won on 18/10/1929. Murphy died of diabetes in 1933.

1925, In Britain the Married Women’s Property Act required husband and wife to be treated as separate persons with regard to property transactions

8/6/1923, In the UK, wives were now allowed to divorce their husbands for adultery. See 1857.

2/3/1923, In Britain the Matrimonial Causes Bill, passed by 231 votes to 27, changed the inequality whereby a man could divorce his wife simply for adultery, but a woman had to prove cruelty or desertion as well.

1911, Canada passed the Dower Act, securting women a share in their husband’s property, see 27/8/1927.

1907, Married women in France were allowed complete control of their wages. Before this date a married woman coukd not draw a wage but her pay had to go to her husband.

1886, In Britain the Guardianship of Infants Act provided for women to be sole guardians of their children if their husband died.

1884, In Britain, the Married Women’s Property Act made married women no longer ‘chattels’ of their husband but independent persons.

1882, In Britain, the Married Women’s Property Act allowed women to own and administer their own property.

1873, In Britain the Custody of Infants Act extended access to children to all divorced or separated women (see 1839).

9/8/1870, In Britain the Married Women’s Property Act was passed. It allowed women to retain £200 (around £70,000 in 2000 terms) of their own earnings.

1857, In Britain the Matrimonial Causes Act set up divorce courts, where women could obtain a divorce. A woman who obtained a judicial separation order or was granted a protection order on grounds of desertion by the man now had the sdame rights as an unmarried woman respecting property. However this Act actually made divorce easier for men, as they now did not have to obtain an expensive Private Act of Parliament. Unlike a man, a woman had to prove desertion, adultery or ‘unnatural conduct’ to obtain dovorce. Only from 1923 could a woman obtain a dovorce, on grounds of simp,e adultery, as a man could, see 8/6/1923.

1839, In Britain the Custody of Infants Act gave mothers ‘of unblemished character’ access to their children in the event of separation or divorce. See 1873.


Appendix 3  – First woman in selected roles

25/11/2015, The first Asian woman to become a High Court Judge in Britain, Mrs Cheena-Grubb, 49, from Derby, was sworn in. There were now 22 female High Court Judges, compared with just 10 in 2005.

22/1/1997, Madeleine Albright became the first female US Secretary of State after confirmation of her appointment by the US Senate.

13/6/1993. Tansu Ciller became Turkey’s first woman president.

25/3/1992, Barbara Harmer, 39, became the first woman pilot of Concorde.

27/4/1992, Betty Boothroyd became the first woman Speaker in the House of Commons.

16/12/1991. In London, Stella Rimington became the first female to head MI5, and the first director-general to be publically named.

17/9/1991, Women were admitted to the ‘Magic Circle’ magician’s association.

16/5/1991, Edith Cresson, aged 57, became France’s first woman Prime Minister.

12/2/1990, Dr Carmen Lawrence became Premiere of Western Australia, the first woman Premiere of an Australian State.

11/10/1988, Women were allowed to study for the first time at Magdalene College, Cambridge, UK. Male students wore black armbands and the porter flew a black flag.

5/6/1988, Kay Cottee sailed into Sydney harbour, the first woman to sail solo round the world non-stop.

28/4/1988, Sian Edwards, 28, became the first woman to conduct at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

29/7/1984, Svetlana Savitskaya, first woman to walk in space, returned to earth, from the Salyut-7 space station.

25/7/1984, A Soviet cosmonaut became the first woman to walk in space.

12/7/1984, In the USA, G Ferraro became the first woman to run for Vice President.

12/11/1983, The Lord Mayor’s show in London featured the first woman Mayor, Dame Mary Donaldson.

18/6/1983, Sally Ride became the first woman in space, aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, with four male satronauts.

4/4/1981. Oxford won the boat race with the first ever lady cox, Sue Brown.

1/2/1981, Norway elected its first woman Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland.

1/8/1979, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was installed as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, the first woman to hold this office. 

4/12/1978, Dianne Feinstein became San Francisco’s first woman mayor, following the murder of mayor George Moscone. She served until 8/1/1988.

6/10/1978, The first woman train driver on the London Underground began work.

13/2/1978. In the UK, Anna Ford became ITN’s first woman newscaster.

17/9/1976. The first female cadets were admitted to Dartmouth Naval College, UK.

21/8/1976. Mary Langdon, aged 25, joined the East Sussex Fire Brigade, becoming Britain’s first female firefighter.

18/5/1975, Japanese climber Junko Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

26/3/1973. Women were allowed on the floor of the London Stock Exchange for the first time. Mrs Susan Shaw stepped onto the floor, the first woman in the 171-year history of the Stock Exchange.

3/6/1972, In Cincinnati, Sally Priesand was inaugurated as the first woman rabbi.

4/1/1972. Rose Heilbron became Britain’s first woman judge at the Old Bailey.

5/4/1971, Mrs Fran Phipps became the first woman to reach the North Pole.

28/7/1966, Florence Nagle, 70,  became the first woman racecourse trainer.

10/12/1964, Dorothy Hodgkin became the first British woman to win a Nobel Prize. She researched the structure of proteins such as insulin.

2/5/1964, Nancy, Lady Astor, the first woman to sit in the House of Commons in 1919, died aged 84.

8/10/1962, Judge Elizabeth Lane became the first female judge to sit in the High Court.

27/3/1961. The first women traffic wardens began ticketing, in Leicester.

21/7/1960. Sirimavo Bandarainake became the world’s first woman Prime Minister, of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). This followed the assassination of her husband, Solomon, the former Prime Minister.

22/6/1960. Nan Winton became the first woman to read the national news on BBC television.

21/10/1958, Women took seats in the UK House of Lords for the first time.

30/10/1957, Women entered the House of Lords for the first time, as a new category of ‘life peers’ was created. Previously, only male bearers of hereditary titles could become peers.

5/12/1956, Rose Heilbron became Britain’s first female judge. She sat in Burnley, Lancashire.

18/5/1953, Jacqueline Cochrane, piloting a US F-86 Sabre plane, became the first woman to fly faster than sound.

5/1/1941. Amy Johnson disappeared, presumed drowned, in a mysterious flying accident on a routine flight over the Thames estuary. She was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia.

17/9/1940. The first women workers on the London Underground began work, as ticket collectors and porters.

31/8/1936. Elizabeth Cowell, Britain’s first woman TV announcer, made her debut at Alexandra Palace.

18/5/1936, Jasmine Bligh and Elizabeth Cowell became the BBC’s first women announcers.

28/12/1934, First women’s cricket test match held,in Australia.

28/8/1933, The first female BBC woman announcer, Sheila Borrett, began work.

21/5/1932.  Amelia Erhart became the first woman to make a solo air crossing of the Atlantic. She flew from Harbor Grace in Newfoundland to Londonderry in Ireland in just under 15 hours.

19/7/1930, The King’s Prize at Bisley was first won by a woman.

18/6/1928. American aviator Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly the Atlantic. She and her two male companions landed safely in Wales.

8/6/1929. Margaret Bondfield became the first British woman Cabinet Minister when she was appointed Minister of Labour.

3/10/1926, At Chiswick, London, Violet Percy became the first woman to run a marathon. She took 3 hours 40 minutes.

6/8/1925, Loretta Perfectus Walsh, first active-duty woman to serve in the United States Navy, died aged 29 of tuberculosis.

9/7/1925, In Dublin, Oonagh Keogh, 22, became the first female member of a stock exchange.

5/1/1925. Mrs Nellie Taylor Ross became governor of Wyoming, the first woman Governor in the USA. This followed the death of her husband.

1924, Denmark became the first country to appoint a woman to the Cabinet. Nina Bang became Minister for Education, until 1928.

4/11/1924. Texas elected its first woman state governor.

1923, In Britain, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) elected its first woman Chairman of the General Council, Miss Margaret Bondfield.

7/10/1922, The first woman senator was sworn in in the USA.

10/5/1922. Dr Ivy Williams became the first woman to be called to the English Bar.

25/5/1921. Miss Olive Clapham qualified as Britain’s first woman barrister.

11/3/1921, Queen Mary became the first woman to be awarded an Oxford Degree.

25/1/1921, Six women were sworn in as jurors in a divorce trial, the first women to serve in this type of case.

7/1/1921. The first woman was elected as foreman of a jury in Britain. This was in Dudley, Birmingham.

8/12/1920 Cambridge University refused to admit women to full-time studentships.

7/10/1920, Oxford University admitted its first 100 women, to study for full degrees.  They had been permitted to sit Oxford examinations before this day.

11/5/1920. Oxford University agreed to start awarding degrees to women.

24/2/1920. Viscountess Lady Astor became the first woman to speak in the British Parliament. Her husband, Conservative MP Waldorf Astor, succeeded her father as Viscount Astor in 1932 and moved to the House of Lords; she won his seat in a by-election 2 months ago. This day she spoke in opposition to a move to abolish the Liquor Control Board.

1919, In Britain the Sex Disqualification Removal Act opened all professions to women except the Church.

1919, Women were allowed to work as government clerks in France.

30/12/1919, In London, the first female bar student was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn.

28/11/1919. Viscountess (Nancy) Astor became Britain’s first woman MP. She took her seat in the House of Commons on 1/12/1919, elected by a substantial majority. She won the seat of Plymouth Sutton in a by-election caused by the elevation of her husband to the peerage. She retired from Parliament in 1945. However see 28/12/1918.

28/12/1918, Constance Marrkievicz, became, technically, the first woman MP in the British and Irish Parliament. This day she was elected MP for Dublin St Patricks consitutuency, as a Sinn  Fein MP. However Sinn Fein has a policy of sbataining from the british Parliament, so she never took her seat. See 28/11/1919.

22/11/1918, In London, 100 women police officers went on street patrol for the first time.

23/10/1918, The House of Commons voted to allow women MPs, by a margin of 274 to 25 votes.

8/1/1918, Recruiting began in Britain for the WRNS; the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

17/12/1917. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Britain’s first woman doctor, died.

28/3/1917. The first women’s service unit, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, was formed.

13/2/1917, Britain introduced new regulations to allow women to be taxi drivers.

1916, Women magistrates were first appointed in Canada,

1916, Women were first admitted to university in Turkey.

7/11/1916. Janet Rankin became the first woman member of the US Congress.

27/6/1916,  King George V confirmed that women were eligible to receive the Military Medal.

1915, Women magistrates were first appointed in Australia.

20/10/1915, UK Prime Minister Lloyd George allowed women to step into many male employment roles, three months after 30,000 women marched down Whitehall demanding ‘The right to serve’. Trades Unions were concerned in case the move depressed wages.

27/11/1914, Britain’s first policewoman went on duty, on completion of her training, in Grantham, Lincolnshire.

26/5/1913. Miss Emily Duncan became Britain’s first woman magistrate. She was appointed a Justice of the Peace in West Ham, London.

16/4/1912, The Channel was first flown by a woman, Harriet Quimby.

14/12/1911. Miss Eleanor Davies Colley, MB London, became the first woman to be admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons.

17/3/1911. In Norway, Anna Rogstadt took her place as the country’s first woman MP.

12/9/1910. The world’s first policewoman, Alice Stebbins Wells, formerly a social worker, joined the Los Angeles Police.

31/5/1910. Elizabeth Blackwell, English-born American doctor, the first woman to gain an MD degree in 1849, from Geneva College, New York State, died. Despite hostility during her education and career, she succeeded in opening up the field of medicine to women. She retired to Hastings, UK, where she died.

8/3/1910. The French Baroness de Laroche became the first woman pilot.

1908, German universities began admitting women.

9/11/1908. Britain’s first woman Mayor, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, was elected, at Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

15/10/1908, The Royal College of Surgeons decided to allow women to obtain the Licence in Dental Surgery.

1907, In Britain, women could now become councillors.

25/5/1907. In Finland, the world’s first Parliament with women members opened.

22/10/1906, Elise Deroche became the first woman to fly solo.

10/12/1905, Austrian pacifist and writer Bertha von Suttner became the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

7/10/1904, Isabella Bird Bishop, the first woman to be admitted to the Royal Geographical Society of London, died today aged 73. A sickly child, the family doctor advised her to travel and she did, widely, firstly to the western USA. Her last trip aboard was to Morocco in 1901. She established missionary hospitals in India and China.

14/11/1900, France approved the admission of women to practice at the Bar.

14/5/1900. Second Olympic Games began in Paris. Women were now allowed to compete.

9/3/1900. German women petitioned the Reichstag for the right to attend university.

13/6/1893, The first women’s golf championship was held, at Britain’s Royal Lytham course.

29/4/1885, Oxford University allowed women to sit its examinations.

4/4/1887, Susanna Salter became the world’s first woman mayor. She was elected at Argona, Kansas.

17/11/1880, The first three female graduates from London University received their degrees.

19/5/1879, Lady Astor, first woman to sit in the House of Lords, was born.

1/9/1878, Emma Nutt became the first woman to work as a telephone operator, on the exchange at Boston, Massachusetts.

15/1/1878, London University awarded degrees to women for the first time.

1876, British medical colleges opened to women.

1872, London School of Medicine for Women opened.

16/10/1869, Girton College, the oldest women’s college in Cambridge, was opened.

28/9/1865. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was admitted to the register as the first qualified woman surgeon and physician in Britain.

1854, Cheltenham Ladies College was founded.

23/1/1849. English-born Elizabeth Blackwell graduated from a New York medical school to become the first female doctor.

1848, Women were first admitted to London University.

25/8/1841, Three women from Oberlin Collegiate Institute, Ohio, became the first women in the USA to be awarded degrees.

30/10/1838. Oberlin College, in Ohio, became the first higher education establishment to admit women on an equal basis with men.

9/6/1836, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, physician who had to study privately because of her sex, and then did much to facilitate women’s entry into the medical profession, was born.

3/2/1821, Elizabeth Blackwell, first English woman doctor, was born.

3/10/1811, The first women’s county cricket match, Hampshire vs. Surrey, was played at Newington.

9/1/1811, The first women’s golf tournament took place, in Scotland.

25/8/1804, Alicia Meynell became the first known female horse jockey.

1754, In Germany, the University of Halle awarded the first medical degree attained by a woman.

26/7/1745. The first recorded women’s cricket match took place at Gosden Common near Guildford. Hambledon Village played nearby Bramley.

8/12/1660, The first (unnamed) actress appeared on the English stage.

1317, France adopted the Salic Law, excluding women from the throne.


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