Women's long battle to vote in France and the generations who fought it

This 21 April marks 80 years since women secured the right to vote in France. A wartime decree finally granted equal suffrage in 1944 – decades later than other European countries, and only after generations of women had demanded their democratic rights.

From Denmark to Azerbaijan, Germany to Georgia, Russia to the United Kingdom, swathes of Europe established at least limited voting rights for women in the 1910s.

Finland enfranchised women even earlier, in 1906. On the other side of the world, Australia and New Zealand had opened voting to certain women in 1902 and 1893 respectively.

Yet in 1932, a French senator was still arguing in all seriousness: "Giving women the right to vote is a gamble, a leap into the unknown, and we have a duty not to rush into this venture."

Sure enough, France went slow. It would be another 12 years before Charles de Gaulle's government in exile passed the decree that, on 21 April 1944, declared women eligible to take part in elections on the same terms as men.

What took so long?

Currents of history

"It's true that it's a long, long story, and it's not just 1944," says Anne-Sarah Moalic, a historian whose book La Marche des Citoyennes ("The March of Women Citizens") traces the history of the suffrage movement in France.

"But we cannot say that it was really the beginning of a big movement."

Read more on RFI English

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