The United States of America (U.Ṣ.) obtained independence from the British in 1776, announced on July 4 by a declaration,making it an independent country for the last two hundred and forty-seven years. Amongst the biggest democratic states in the world, it is the second in size behind India.
India gained independence from the United Kingdom (U.K.) in 1947 and gave women voting rights right away. The U.S. granted voting rights to women in 1920, one hundred and forty-four years after independence. However, only white women got the right to vote in 1920, and other women in the U.S. were awarded this right much later. Chinese women gained voting rights in 1962, and Black women were granted the right to vote in 1965. This shows apathy toward women in general and Black and Chinese women in particular.
Below is the timeline of the voting rights of women in the United States:
1848: The movement for the restoration of voting rights for women started when the first convention for women’s rights was attended by three hundred in Seneca Falls, New York. Sixty-four women and thirty-two men signed a “Declaration of Sentiments.” Unfortunately, the first meeting did not address the racism and oppression of black women.
1850: A national convention was held in Worcester, Massachusetts, to strategize for strengthening women’s rights. More than one thousand people attended this convention. These meetings and conventions continued every year through 1860.
1860: Suffragists acquired 10,000 signatures for sending to Congress, requesting to prohibit sex segregation.
1872: Susan B. Anthony, alongside fourteen other women, voted in the election. Susan was arrested for voting illegally. The court fined her $100, which she refused to pay.
1896: The National Association of Colored Women was formed.
1909: The “Women Suffrage Party” was founded in New York. This guided women to actively participate in politics for women’s voting rights.
1910: The first women’s suffrage parade took place in New York. In three years, about 10,000 participants paraded for the rights of women.
1913: Black women came into action. Black journalist and anti-lynching advocate Ida B. Wells formed the “Alpha Suffrage Club” and secured the election of Oscar De Priest, the first black member of Congress in the 20th century.
1916: The first woman, Jeannette Rankin of Montana, USA, was elected to the House of Representatives (1).
1919: The Nineteenth Amendment was signed into law, granting women the right to vote.
1920: White women were able to vote.
1924: Then Native American women earn the right to vote.
1962: After many years of struggle, Chinese women were granted the right to vote across all states. New Mexico was the last state to give them the authorization to vote officially.
1965: In the year 1965, finally, Black and Latina women were granted the right to vote (2).
The 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was passed by the U.S. Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920. This milestone was achieved after a lengthy and challenging struggle, both by women and men. This victory was achieved through decades of agitation and protests. Black women waited about five decades for the right to vote.
Hence, the liberal and democratic society of the United States took about 190 years to grant voting rights to all the women of the USA. Women struggled over the years and snatched their right to vote from the clutches of the male-dominated society of the United States. On the other hand, the Holy Qur’an, revealed some 1,400 years ago, enjoins both men and women to use their right to vote when it says: “Verily, Allah commands you to give over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that when you judge between people, you judge with justice” (3). Therefore, the possibility of denying women the right to vote does not even arise in Islam.
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul-Masih V (aba) gave an example in his address to women on the occasion of the Annual Convention of 2008 in the U.K., citing how men in the U.S. were reluctant to accept a woman as President. He said: “In some cultures and families, women are considered of lowly stature. Even in the West, which claims to be the standard-bearer of women’s rights, only until a few decades ago, women had no status. Despite raising slogans of liberation for women, even today, the well-educated people of the West oppose women attaining key positions. For example, in the recent American presidential elections, excuses were presented against a potential woman candidate, declaring: how could a woman be the President of the USA? They later did their best to cover up this impression, but a large part of the American population is not ready for a woman president. Apparently, America is a developed country and is said to be broadminded about freedom and civil rights, but even they could not stand the idea that a woman should be their President and leader of the country (4).”
In contrast to the United States, below is the list of Muslim women who are currently serving as heads of state (5):
- Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1996-2001 and 2009 – present.
- Halimah Yacob, President of Singapore, 2017 – present.
- Samia Suluhu, President of Tanzania, 2021- present.
- Vjosa Osmani, President of Kosovo, 2021 – present.
- Najla Bouden, Prime Minister of Tunisia, 2021 – present.
Additionally, below is the list of Muslim women who have served as heads of state in the past:
- Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1988-1990 and 1993-1996.
- Khaleda Zia, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1991-1996 and 2001-2006.
- Tansu Çiller, Prime Minister of Turkey, 1993-1996.
- Mame Madior Boye, Prime Minister of Senegal, 2001-2002
- Megawati Sukarnoputri, President of Indonesia, 2001-2004.
- Roza Otunbayeva, President of Kyrgyzstan, 2010-2011.
- Atifete Jahjaga, President of Kosovo (not a Muslim majority country), 2011-2016.
- Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé, Prime Minister of Mali, 2011-2012.
- Sibel Siber, Prime Minister of Northern Cyprus (not a Muslim-majority country), 2013
- Aminata Touré, Prime Minister of Senegal, 2013-2014
- Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius, 2015-2018.
In conclusion, men and women are equally addressed by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa), who said: “Loyalty to nation is part of faith” (6). To that end, Islam does not now, nor ever has restricted Muslim women from voting or pursuing leadership roles that would allow them to serve their fellow citizens meaningfully (7). All of this is in direct contrast to the status of women before the advent of Islam, and to the evolution of women’s right to vote in the United States and in other Western countries.
- Women in the United States House of Representatives, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_the_United_States_House_of_Representatives [Accessed February 28, 2023]
- Emily Bloch, June 17, 2022, “When Did Women Get the Right to Vote? A Look Back at U.S. History.” https://www.teenvogue.com/story/when-women-got-right-to-vote-united-states [Accessed February 28, 2023] (Adapted by the author).
- The Holy Qur’an (4:59)
- Mirza Masroor Ahmad (2008), “Islam and Women’s Rights,” Address to Ladies (Lajna) of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community at the U.K. Annual Convention of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community on July 26, 2008, https://www.khalifatulmasih.org/articles/islam-and-womens-rights/ [Accessed February 28, 2023]
- List of elected and appointed female heads of state and government, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_elected_and_appointed_female_heads_of_state_and_government [Accessed February 28, 2023]
- Mirza Masroor Ahmad (2021), “Answers to Everyday Issues – Part 35: Hadith: ‘Love for one’s country is part of faith,’ punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah, tattoos” https://www.alhakam.org/answers-to-everyday-issues-part-35/ [Accessed February 28, 2023]
“Does Islam promote leadership roles/duties when it comes to women? Can Muslim women pursue careers?” https://www.alislam.org/question/leadership-roles-duties-muslim-women-pursue-careers/ [Accessed February 28, 2023]
Last modified: October 2023