Votes for women? What a ridiculous idea!

Switzerland’s male population said, “Votes for women? What a ridiculous idea! Their brains are smaller than men’s, which proves they are less intelligent. They are prone to extremism, and would go out to campaign without asking their husbands’ permission. And it wouldn’t promote equality because their natural modesty would stop them going out to vote when pregnant, and since rural women have more babies than those in towns, this would give an unfair advantage to the latter. And if women were actually elected, what a source of humiliation for their husbands! They would be forced to do the cooking…”

Such were the arguments that convinced Switzerland’s male population to turn down call after call to allow women the vote. Never mind that they had had it in New Zealand since 1893 and most of Europe since the end of World War I. Never mind that both chambers of the Swiss parliament finally gave the green light to women’s suffrage in 1958 – more than 50 years after Europe’s pioneer, Finland. When put to the people – to half the people, that is – in 1959, as required by the Swiss constitution, two thirds of them turned parliament’s recommendation down.

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