28 November 2017
99 years of women's rights in Poland
On 28 November 1918, Polish Chief of State Józef Piłsudski signed an electoral law allowing women to vote, which they did for the first time in parliamentary elections in January 1919.
This happened the same month that the country regained independence, after 123 years spent under partitions and foreign rule. Polish women had taken part during those decades of struggle – Piłsudski's future wife, Aleksandra Szczerbińska, for example, was responsible for storage of the underground force's weapons in Warsaw. The right to vote was enacted in recognition of women's dedication, but it did not happen automatically. It would not have occured without the firm insistence of a group of women who decided to stand before Piłsudski's house, beating at his fence with their umbrellas for an entire day and demanding that their civill rights be acknowledged.
Polish women gained the right to vote sooner than their counterparts in the US, Britain and France. The electoral law also allowed Polish women to hold public office. They made up under two percent of parliament after the 1919 elections.