The Country Association for Women's Suffrage (Swedish: Landsföreningen för kvinnans politiska rösträtt, LKPR) was a part of the general Suffrage movement and the national society for women's suffrage in Sweden. It functioned as a parallel to the Sveriges allmänna rösträttsförbund (SARF), the Suffrage Movement of Sweden, which was active mainly in acquiring full suffrage for males. The LKPR was a part of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. It was active locally from 1902 as the Föreningen för kvinnans politiska rösträtt (Society for Woman Suffrage), and nationwide as the Landsföreningen för kvinnans politiska rösträtt (Country Association for Women's Suffrage) from 1903 until 1921.
Background and foundation
In 1884, the first motion of women suffrage was presented to the Swedish parliament by Fredrik Borg. Borg presented his motion with the motivation that it would be just if women could vote in equal terms as men. This meant that taxpaying women of legal majority and a certain income should be allowed to vote on national level, just as they already had the right to vote in municipal elections. The motion was voted down in the upper chamber with 53 votes against 44. The official main reason to rejection was that the women had not asked for such a right themselves. This demand was met in 1899, when Agda Montelius and Gertrud Adelborg as the representatives of Fredrika-Bremer-förbundet presented a demand for women's suffrage to the prime minister Erik Gustaf Boström. They were not given a reply.
In 1902, two motions regarding suffrage reform were presented to Parliament. One was from the Minister of Justice Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, who suggested that married men be given two votes, as they could be regarded to vote in place of their wives as well. The other motion was presented by Carl Lindhagen, who suggested women suffrage. The Hammarskjöld suggestion aroused anger among women's rights activists, who formed a support group for the Lindhagen motion. One of the reasons for the formation of a women's support group, was that the opponents to women suffrage used the fact that women suffrage was not a demand from the women themselves, and before the Lindhagen motion was voted down, the support group managed to hand over a list of 4154 names from Stockholm and 1487 from Gothenburg.
On 4 June 1902, Föreningen för Kvinnans Politiska Rösträtt (FKPR) was founded. It was, however, still a local Stockholm society. The society sent out speakers to arrange local sections, and on New Year's Eve 1903, so many local sections had been founded that the name could be changed to Landsföreningen för kvinnans politiska rösträtt, that is to say a nationwide organisation.
Organisation and activism
The LKPR's official parole was that women should vote on the same terms as men. This phrase meant, that until full male suffrage was introduced in 1909, they demanded that taxpaying women of legal majority with an income, who already had the right to vote in municipal elections since the reform of 1862, should be allowed to vote also in national elections. After the full male suffrage of 1909, the same phrase automatically meant that they demanded the right for all women to vote. Until 1909, this had the effect that women with Socialist sympathies chose other women organisations. The LKPR was not the only women organisation in Sweden that demanded women's suffrage. Also the Frisinnade kvinnor (Liberal Women), Vita bandet (White Band) as well as the Socialist women organisations demanded women's suffrage, but the LKPR was the only organisation which had women's suffrage as its main task, and it remained so until 1917, when a fraction of right-wing women formed the Moderata kvinnors rösträttsförening (The Society of Women's Suffrage of Moderate Women). The LKPR also engages in other issues, or regarded women's suffrage as a means to solve them: as only people of legal majority could vote, the demand for women's suffrage should eventually lead to the abolition of a man's legal guardianship over the married woman.
LKPR summoned representatives from their local sections to annual board meetings with the central board on Lästmakargatan 6 in Stockholm. It was financed by the manufacturing of post cards and similar objects, the arranging of Flea markets and contributions from sympathisers. Among the most notable and important single financiers of the Swedish suffrage movement were Lotten von Kraemer and Martina Bergman Österberg. The membership was for women only. The reason was that the main argument from the opposition for women's suffrage was that women did not want to vote themselves, and that it was seen as necessary to prove that women where capable of organising themselves politically and handle the responsibility that suffrage would give them as full citizens. There was, however, a male support group: Männens förening för kvinnans politiska rösträtt (The Male Society for Women's Suffrage) or MFKPR (1911).
The Swedish Society for Women's Suffrage regarded the more violent methods of the British Suffragettes to be non-constructive and did not wish to be associated with them, as they feared that this would erase all sympathy for the issue. Only one street demonstration was ever organised by the society. After a motion of women's suffrage was voted down in 1918, the participants marched with three banners representing people without the right to vote. The first banner showed a male criminal in prison; the second a male patient in a mental hospital; and the third banner the respected author Selma Lagerlöf, member of the Royal Swedish Academy. This demonstration was organised by Frigga Carlberg of the Gothenburg section, which was the most radical of the sections. It was also Carlberg who once invited Sylvia Pankhurst as a speaker. These were exceptions.
The general media image of the women demanding women's suffrage was a non-feminine, masculine and homosexual woman. Because of this, the Swedish Society for Women's Suffrage thought it wise to reject this prejudice by recommending their members to try to dress femininely during their activism.
The LKPR primarily used the method of building opinion by using the press, making public speeches, handing out leaflets and by applying pressure on politicians and decision makers. The Bergman-Österbergska samhällskurserna (Bergman-Österberg Citizen Courses), financed by Martina Bergman Österberg, informed women of their rights and prepared them for a future as political voters, and they published their own paper, "Rösträtt för kvinnor" (Women's Suffrage) in 1912-1919.
The LKPR was formally a politically neutral organisation. The society was chaired by Lydia Wahlström (conservative), Signe Bergman (social democrat), the teacher Anna Whitlock and Ann-Margret Holmgren (liberal). It was supported by women with both left- and right-wing political sympathies. In practice, the political neutrality was abandoned by the resolution of 20 June 1911, when the LKPR decided to form a voters' boycott against all politicians opposing women's suffrage and support those in favour. In reality, this meant that the organisation was no longer politically neutral, as the main opposition of women's suffrage was the Conservatives, while Liberals and the Social Democrats were in favour of women's suffrage as soon as full male suffrage had been introduced, which had been made in 1909.
Several famous women participated with their support. Selma Lagerlöf was an important speaker, because of the general respect she was given in all parts of society. Lagerlöf was deeply involved with the Swedish suffrage movement and spoke when ever she was asked to, and she was a well known representative for it. Ellen Key was also involved, but more frequently ridiculed in the press. Elin Wägner was from 1909 one of the most active supporters. She participated in plays in the parts of Jenny Lind and Fredrika Bremer, and her novel Pennskaftet (novel) (1910), which spoke for love without marriage, became a controversial success in all society and referred to as the bible of the Swedish suffrage movement.
In 1905, the LKPR presented its demands to the liberal government of Karl Staaff, who answered them that women suffrage should be introduced as soon as full male suffrage, which had to come first. The government arranged for an investigation of the reform, which was scheduled to present its result after a period of six years. In 1907, the Conservative government under Arvid Lindman refused to touch the question by referring to this investigation. The LKPR sent a delegation under Gertrud Adelborg to King Oscar II of Sweden, who promised his support.
The congress of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in Stockholm in June 1911 has sometimes been referred to as the greatest triumph of the LKPR. Many international speakers were present, among them Anna Shaw, Rosika Schwimmer and Carrie Chapman Catt. Selma Lagerlöf was a speaker on the Royal Swedish Opera and Ellen Key at Skansen. The congress was celebrated with a great parade through Stockholm, who stopped to greet its greatest benefactor, Lotten von Kreamer, on her balcony. The congress was given great media coverage. In connection to this, the male support group was founded who counted Carl Lindhagen, Ernst Beckman, Knut Wicksell, Mauritz Hellberg and Henrik Petrini among its members.
In 1912, Karl Staff presented a motion of women's suffrage, which was voted down by the Conservatives, while the Liberals and Social Democrats voted yes. Staff encouraged LKPR to present a support list to Parliament to silence the argument that women did not ask to vote themselves, and in 1913, the LKPR could present a list of 360,000 names of women who supported women's suffrage.
During World War I, the LKPR took the initiative for a peace organisation formed by women of the neutral countries with the aim to form pressure on the neutral governments to act as mediators between the warring parties. The Peace Movement was formed by the LKPR with members also from Fredrika Bremer förbundet, KFUK, the Social Democratic women's organisations among others, with Anna Whitlock, Emilia Broomé and Kerstin Hesselgren as leading members. A great peace manifestation was to take place 19 February 1915 organised by the Swedish women with support and participation also from the women of Denmark and Norway. On 18 February, however, Agda Montelius was called to the Queen, Victoria of Baden, who demanded a stop of "The foolish presumption of women" to be involved in politics. King Gustav V of Sweden interrupted and said that women were of course entitled to present demands to the Government, but that the situation made it difficult, and referred to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who warned them that such an action could damage Swedish neutrality. The action was therefore silenced in both Sweden, Denmark and Norway, and the women involved placed the blame on Victoria of Baden. The Swedish Peace Movement did, however, send 16 delegates to the international women's peace movement in the Hague in April 1915.
In 1917 the LKPR wished to exploit the revolutionary atmosphere by presenting Prime Minister Carl Swartz with a demand for women's suffrage. Several motions in favour of woman suffrage were presented in Parliament, but were all voted down.
After the elections of 1917, the Conservatives were defeated by the Liberals and Social Democrats. Thereby, there was a majority in the Swedish Parliament in favour of women's suffrage, and the LKPR reminded the parties to the left of their old promise to introduce women's suffrage as soon as full suffrage had been granted to men. In February 1918, the Government hold to its promise by presenting a bill on women's suffrage. It was approved in the second chamber by 149 to 49 but voted down in the first chamber with 62 to 36. LKPR organised a public protest meeting on Gärdet in Stockholm with the Liberal Gulli Petrini and the Social Democrat Ruth Gustafson as speakers, and the only street demonstration ever organised by the LKPR was arranged by Frigga Carlberg in Gothenburg.
After the end of the World War I, the Government introduced its sweeping democratic reform program, which included women's suffrage. Because this required a change in the constitution, two decisions were necessary: one to introduce the reform, and another one to confirm it. Women's suffrage was approved in Parliament on 24 May 1919, and confirmed in January 1921.
The LKPR celebrated the victory on 29 May 1919 and arranged a party with music by Elfrida Andrée and a speech by Selma Lagerlöf. Delegations from Denmark and Norway were received, and a delegation was sent to the Social Democratic Women, who also worked for women's suffrage, which was answered by a deputation led by Anna Lindhagen. It was followed by a meeting at Skansen with Lydia Wahlström, Ruth Gustafson, Alexandra Skoglund and Ellen Hagen as speakers.
After the goal was achieved, the LKPR was dissolved. Many members joined the Fredrika Bremer förbundet, while the central committee formed the Svenska Kvinnors Medborgarförbund (The Citizen Society of Swedish Women).
- 1903-1907 - Anna Whitlock (first term)
- 1907-1911 - Lydia Wahlström
- 1911-1914 - Anna Whitlock (second term)
- 1914-1917 - Signe Bergman
- 1918-1921 - Karolina Widerström
- List of suffragists and suffragettes
- List of women's rights activists
- Timeline of women's suffrage
- Women's suffrage organizations
- Barbro Hedwall (2011). Susanna Eriksson Lundqvist. red.. Vår rättmätiga plats. Om kvinnornas kamp för rösträtt.. (Our Rightful Place. About women's struggle for suffrage) Förlag Bonnier. ISBN 978-91-7424-119-8 (Swedish)
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