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Subject: Research on the History and Impact of China's 1st Movement for Women's Political Rights
Category: 国内
Author: Ni Ting
Time: 2017-06-01
Source: Women's Studies Institute of China
Keyword: China, first time, women, participation, political affairs, impact
Full text:
As an important aspect of improving women's status and protecting women's rights and interests, Women's participation in political affairs and social governance is increasingly received widespread attention by international society and has positive impact in realizing gender equality and promoting social development.

China's first women's movement emerged in 1912 as a part of international movements for women's equal rights in political participation. The event not only became valuable historical heritage, but also provided beneficial experiences in promoting women's participation in national and social governance.

History Background

Positive impact of international women's movements

International movement for women's participation in political affairs made rapid progress in early 20th Century. Carrie Chapman Catt, an american women's suffrage leader, founded the International Alliance of Women in 1902, which eventually incorporated sympathetic associations in 21 nations. Emmeline Pankhurst, a British political activist who helped women win the right to vote. Pankhurst founded the Women's Social and Political Union in 1903, an all-women suffrage advocacy organization dedicated to "deeds, not words". It became known for physical confrontations: its members smashed windows and assaulted police officers, burned stations and finally achieved women's suffrage in Britain around 1912.

The information of international movements motivated Chinese women's enthusiasm for political involvement. Mrs Catt led a delegation to visit Beijing and Shanghai in August 1912, introduced the current status of international women's participation in political affairs and spread useful experiences in women's movements. It had great significance in the development of women's movement in China.

The theoretical basis of women's liberation thoughts

During Chinese Revolution of 1911, the bourgeois revolutionists explored the issue of gender equality by translating Western feminist ideology and editing books about gender equality. The 1911 Revolution kindled a feminist movement which focused on equal rights for men and women and participation by women in political affairs. These movements promoted the awakening of Chinese women.

The first feminist book Nü Jie Zhong was published in 1903, originally brought forward the idea of women's political participation and introduced the specific ideas of women's supervision and governance of government. Sun Yat-sen regarded gender equality as an important part of civil rights, overtly announced that women should enjoy the same rights as men in politics, economy, society and education, as well as, take the equal responsibility and obligation as men.

Awakening of women's awareness of political rights

Under the oppression of national crisis, Chinese women intellectuals published a women's magazine named China Women's News (nü xue bao) in which they encouraged women to resist oppression by their families and by the government and gain financial independence through education and training in various professions.
Women have the equal human rights as men and should take the same obligation to serve the country, Qiu Jin once said, interconnecting her destiny closely with the nation's development.

Female talents emerged around the Revolution of 1911

For national salvation and self emancipation, Chinese women, along with the entire nation, waged a dauntless struggle for women's liberation. They planned uprisings, organized women's army, participated in anti-Qing Empire revolution, financed the democratic movements and backed up the front-line war.

Women are a vital force in China's reform and have made extremely important contributions in democratic revolution and women's liberty.

Process and Main Appeals

After the victory of the 1911 revolution, the pursuit of democracy and republicanism had found its way ever deeper in the hearts of the people. Women's passion for political participation had grown stronger and their demands had become clearer.

The formation of suffragist groups

A Chinese suffragist Lin Zongsu founded China's first women's suffrage organization in November 1911 and requested Sun Yet-sen, president of the provisional government, to empower women rights for political affairs.

In order to strengthen women's political power and establish women's rights to vote and be elected in the constitution, women activists set up the Women's Suffrage Alliance, an organization created by the merger of the Nanjing Women's Alliance, the Women's Backup Society, the Women's Martial Spirit Society, and the Women's Suffrage Comrades' Alliance in 1912.

Gender equality recorded in the constitution

Tang Qunying made great efforts to press the Nanjing provincial government to incorporate gender equality into the constitution. Thereafter, she displayed a militant approach in pursuing her conviction to establish gender equality between men and women, and participation of women in political affairs. As a leader in the Women's Suffrage Alliance, Tang led a series of demonstrations in which she and several other women stormed into sessions of parliament, demanding that the provisional constitution then under debate including voting rights for women. Sun Yat-sen agreed to mediate, and the parliament promised to take the subject up.

Empowering women as voters and candidates

After Sun Yat-sen resigned the presidency, in August 1912 the electoral laws were passed which specifically excluded women as voters or candidates.

The Women's Suffrage Alliance signed petitions twice to denounce the Senate's violation against law and human rights, and pointed out that women's voting right is the basic human right. The electoral law ravaged human rights by converting the "people" in the law into "men". The members of the Women's Suffrage Alliance urged the authorities to enact special electoral law for women. Unfortunately, the appealing was rejected by the Senate again.

Involving women in local elections

Guangdong government distributed 10 places for women senators in 1911. China became one of the few countries that admits women's rights in political affairs. In October 1913, Yuan Shikai became the official president. The provincial women's political groups were forced to be dissolved in November the same year. Women's movements for political rights decayed since then.

Influence and Enlightenment

China's first movement for women's participation in political affairs promoted the process of women's involvement in national and social affairs. Chinese government has enacted a series of policies to safeguard women's rights. Female candidates enjoy the same rights as men in political involvement.

The leaders should carry out the mass-line firmly to promote women's participation in state administration and social affairs. They must enhance engagement with the masses and focus more on the grassroots. The authorities should advocate the nation's basic policy of gender equality, build favourable environment for women's empowerment, and improve the masses' awareness of political participation.

According to the report on 2016 Global Gender Gap, China ranked No. 74 among 144 countries and regions in the fields of women's political empowerment, education level and health.

Women's empowerment cause has made substantial progress and still has a long way to go.
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