1937 Philippine women's suffrage plebiscite

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Philippine women's suffrage plebiscite, 1937
The Question of Woman Suffrage[1]
Votes %
Yes 444,725 90.94%
No 44,307 9.06%
Total votes 492,032 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 572,130 86%

The National Assembly in the Philippines announced the Plebiscite in 1937, which would decide whether or not women should gain the right to vote or not. Multiple women's movement started during 1910 which led to the plebiscite in 1937 where women voted for or against for women's suffrage rights. Filipino women worked hard to mobilize and fight for women's suffrage in the early 1900s and gained victory after 447,725 out of 500,000 votes affirmed to having women's right to vote.[2]

Arguments against women gaining the right to vote in the Philippines were stated due to the fact that it would ruin family unity, giving less power to the husband or man of the house in the family.[3]

Prior to the year in which the plebiscite took place, electors were chosen to vote on the new Constitution. Approximately 1,213,934 of the electors voted for the changes made to the new constitution and 42,690 electors voted against it. The new constitution providing Filipino women with the right to vote, was also the shortest constitution that was ratified during modern times. This new constitution contained only a small number of 17 articles.[4]

Before women gained the right to vote, they had no legal rights during that time period. Even with the proper consent from their husbands, women still could not obtain any legal rights. Governor General Dwight F. Davis made it legal for women to have some legal rights when it came to disposition of property. This allowed for women to own personal items within their marriage.[5] The issue concerning women's suffrage in the Philippines was settled in a special plebiscite held on 30 April 1937. Ninety percent of voters were in favor of the measure.

Asociacion Feminista Ilonga[edit]

Founded by Pura Villanueva Kalaw, who was a women's rights pioneer, Asociacion Feminista Ilonga was created in 1906 and Asociacion Feminista Filipina (Feminist Association of the Philippines) was founded in 1905 which was founded by Concepcion Felix Rodriguez along with 12 elite women.[6] Both of these organizations not only helped the suffrage movement, but they were also one of the first organizations that built a foundation for the suffrage movement in the Philippines. The objectives of the organizations were to touch upon socio-civic matters some of which were prison reform, improving the education system and healthcare and labor reforms.[6] Governor Murphy was the first Governor who took action on gaining civil and political rights for women, while other Governors such as Roosevelt and Davis aimed to help women gain civil rights, but never took initiative. Governor General Frank Murphy, who aimed to gain peace and unity for all Philippine women, ultimately signed the Woman’s Suffrage Bill, in hope that women would gain equal rights, fairness, and treatment.[7]

There were several feminist organizations that played in a role in enhancing the suffrage movement. The struggle for women to vote in the Philippines, started by the middle class women, began in 1910. In 1905, Feminista Filipino (Association of Filipino Feminists) formed and focused on school reforms and prison reform for citizens. Another organization called the Association Feminista LLonga was created in 1906 and its goal was to focus on women's suffrage.[citation needed] At the same time, there was an all-male National Legislature that was against the feminist movement, thus did not support the movement because they feared that traditional family roles would start to change if women had the right to vote. Those who were opposed to the women's suffrage movement were not only men, but also women.[6] In 1920, the Manila Women's Club emerged as the "next big step" towards forming the League of Women's Suffragettes which worked towards women's right to vote. The Club formed the League of Women's Suffragettes which . A year after the League of Women’s Suffragettes was formed, there was another organization called a National Federation of Women's Club in 1921-1937 which was known to be the vanguard of the suffrage movement.[citation needed] As all these organizations illustrate, Filipino women worked hard with determination to gain the right to vote and have equal political participation as Filipino men.

National Assembly[edit]

The National Assembly in 1935 stated that they would hold a plebiscite in the next two years, stating if more than 300,000 women were to vote for the plebiscite, then the right to vote for women would be granted. In response, Filipino women amped up their mobilization women to vote. There was wide spread propaganda through media, posters, press, radio, house to house visits and such and they also had lectures in which informed women about the plebiscite. The Junior Federation of Women's Club was also created to help women with children so that they were able to vote while their children would be taken care of. Transportation and food were provided, creating a less hassle for Filipino that may or may not have financial abilities to go out and vote.[citation needed] The Commonwealth Act No.34 approved on 30 September 1936 was an act that provided the holding of the plebiscite in 1937 for women's suffrage which listed all the necessities prerequisites for this act to occur.[8] As mandated by Commonwealth Act No. 34, women who met the same qualification as men voted in the plebiscite.[9][1] Out of the total of 500,000 women that voted, 447,725 women voted for while 52,275 voted against in the plebiscite in 30 April 1937.[citation needed] In compliance with the 1935 Constitution, the National Assembly passed a law which extended the right of suffrage to women, a right which still remains.

Female president[edit]

The Philippines is one of the earliest countries in South East Asia to have female president, Corazon Aquino from 25 February 1986 to 30 June 1992 and the country has high percentages of women participation in the political realm.[citation needed] The 1987 Constitution has included women in the political realm, as well as granting equality for both men and women.[10] Some of the equal political rights are the right of suffrage, the right to run for public service, right to political expression, and the right to information. The Philiipines is one of the many countries in the world that is a signatory to the Convention on Political Rights of Women (CEDAW), which is an international convention created by the United Nations General Assembly. It does not allow any gender discrimination, and to have equality between men and women.[10] In 1939, two years after Philippine women were granted the right to vote, the first woman senator came to be, her name being Geronima T. Pecson. The election of Geronima sparked the start of many leadership positions for women such as the election of two women presidents, congresswomen, senators, mayors and many other leadership positions along with those.[11]

Plebiscite Results[edit]

Ratification Votes
YES 447,725
NO 44,307

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Commonwealth Act No. 34". Supra Source. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  2. ^ Aquino, Belinda A. (1994). "Filipino women and political engagement". Review of Women's Studies. 4.
  3. ^ "Philippine Woman Suffrage Day". Infotrac Newsstand. 29 April 2010.
  4. ^ Benitez, Conrado (December 1935). "New Philippine Constitution". Pacific Affairs. 8 (4): 428–432. doi:10.2307/2751242. JSTOR 2751242.
  5. ^ Smithmanila, Robert (December 1936). "Philippine Women Seek Vote". ProQuest. ProQuest 101776147.
  6. ^ a b c "Philippines Suffragist Movement « Women Suffrage and Beyond". womensuffrage.org. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  7. ^ Smithmanila, Robert (December 1936). "Philippine Women Seek The Right To Vote". ProQuest. ProQuest 101776147.
  8. ^ "Commonwealth Act No.34". Supra Sourse.
  9. ^ "1937 plebiscite". Presidential Museum and Library. Presidential Museum and Library. 2013. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  10. ^ a b Feliciano, Myrna S (1991). "The Political Rights of Women in Philippine Context". Review of Women's Studies. 1.
  11. ^ "Hawes Act Vote Asked By Murphy". ProQuest. July 1933. ProQuest 100633307.

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