Women’s Right to Vote in Germany
November 12, (1918)
Number of female heads of state to date: 2
The Roles and Representations of Women in the Weimar Republic
by Tori Maher
All aspects of German life were shaped by the upheaval and challenges faced during the Weimar Republic. Created in 1918 out of the defeat and chaos of the First World War, the Weimar Republic looked to be a rejection of old Imperial traditions and an embrace of modern democracy. During the years 1918 to 1932, no other group was affected as much as German women, as they bore the brunt of societies expectations for the future stability and health of the German nation. Women’s roles and responsibilities changed in reaction to the different challenges and opportunities that were afforded to them during this turbulent period of German history.
One of the most defining features of the new republic was the creation of a democratic Weimar Constitution in 1919. The Weimar Constitution gave women a relatively progressive power in 1919, the right to vote, which drastically altered how women were viewed and the roles they could undertake. The vote gave women a sense of emancipation they had never had before, but it also allowed them to have a practical say in the political decisions that were being made for them. 49 women were even elected to the parliament in the first elections held in 1919, showing German society that women and men believed in the important role women could play within the institutions of power. While female suffrage and the newly elected female voices in parliament had the ability to influence party policies, the vote had not altered the traditional values of German society that the First World War had helped to cement. “Motherly” politics that focused on the family unit became staples of numerous political parties as they were seen as a way to protect and preserve the moral fabric of German society. While the gesture of female emancipation and suffrage marked a shift in attitudes towards women, it was ultimately met with a traditional backlash. The German constitution retained Imperial laws such as criminalisation of abortion and limited access to birth control, laws which were viewed as essential for promoting marriage and repopulating Germany after the war.
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