While 1971 was the year Swiss women could officially vote in national elections, the canton of Appenzell Inner Rhodes did not allow women the vote in regional elections until 1990. But Switzerland was not the last European country: Portugal granted suffrage to women in 1976 and Liechtenstein in 1984. 

That voting would distract women from their important domestic duties was the main social barrier – but it was Switzerland’s direct democracy with regional votes held in open-air assemblies, which largely dragged the vote for women on for so long. Men in Appenzell continued – almost unanimously – to vote against giving women suffrage until the federal government essentially forced Appenzell to allow women to vote in regional elections. 

Elizabeth Blunschy became the first woman elected as the President of the National Council in 1977, paving the way for Swiss women in politics today like Ruth Dreifuss, Simonetta Sommaruga, Doris Leuthard and Micheline Calmy-Rey. 

Selected from IMAGO’s curated collection for the anniversary of women’s suffrage in Switzerland on February 7, take a look at some highlights from the archive. 

IMAGO / ZUMA / Keystone
IMAGO / Zuma Keystone | The People’s general assembly (only for men named Landsgemeinde of the small Swiss Canton Appenzell Ausserrhoden is seen during the voting by show of hands on the main square in Trogem. The men defeated again a social democratic petition for adopting the voting right to women. April 4, 1984.
IMAGO / ZUMA / Keystone
IMAGO / Zuma Keystone | The People’s general assembly in Appenzell – The men defeated again a social democratic petition for adopting the voting right to women. April 4, 1984.
IMAGO / ZUMA Wire
IMAGO / Zuma Wire | 1968 - Women's Suffrage Refused: The men of the Swiss sub-canton Appenzell Innerhoden decided April 29 in the traditional open air show of hands vote, to continue the ban on women's suffrage in cantonal elections.
IMAGO / ZUMA/Keystone
IMAGO / Zuma Keystone | Elizabeth Blunchy, first woman elected as the President of the National Council in 1977 in the Swiss Parliament.
IMAGO / ZUMA/Keystone
IMAGO / Zuma Keystone | Elizabeth Blunchy, first woman elected as the President of the National Council in Switzerland. May 5, 1977.
IMAGO / United Archives International
IMAGO / United Archives International | A Woman casting her ballot in Geneva, where women could already vote in regional elections in 1961.
IMAGO / United Archives International
IMAGO / United Archives International | Mrs. Margery Corbett Ashby, the famous women’s leader and President of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance, who is the only woman delegate in the British delegation to the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, leaving London for Geneva. January 31, 1932.
IMAGO / Manuel Winterberger
IMAGO / Manuel Winterberger | First Swiss woman elected as the President of the Confederation in 1999 gives a speech in Bern, Switzerland. September 9, 2013.
IMAGO / Xinhua
IMAGO / Xinhua | Former head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and former President of the Confederation Micheline Calmy-Rey at the World Economic Forum in 2007.
IMAGO / Manuel Winterberger
IMAGO / Manuel Winterberger | Federal Councilor Simonetta Sommaruga during a debate in the National Council. March 20, 2014.
IMAGO / Xinhua
IMAGO / Xinhua | Former President of the Swiss Confederation Doris Leuthard at a General Debate of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the UN headquarters in New York, Sept. 19, 2017.
Written by Sofia Bergmann. Part of our Women’s History Month series.