The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Women's History Month "V": Viola and Women and the Vote


Orsino and Viola by Frederick Richard Pickersgill

Young Viola, the protagonist in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, finds herself shipwrecked at Illyria, having apparently lost her identical twin brother Sebastian.  Even in her mourning, Viola knows that she must take her survival into her own hands.  Unable to join the service of the Countess Olivia (who is mourning herself), Viola decides to disguise herself as a man, adopting the persona of Cesario.  In this way, she feels she will be safer, as well as able to join the service of the unmarried Duke of Illyria, Orsino.

Orsino, believing himself to be in love with Olivia, uses his newfound confidant Cesario as a go-between to declare his love for Olivia.  His tactic backfires, however, as Viola is secretly falling in love with Orsino, while Olivia is falling in love with Cesario.  With all the mistaken and hidden identities, comedy and confusion ensue.  This is furthered by the abrupt arrival of Sebastian, who did survive the shipwreck.  As he and Cesario look identical, Olivia believes they are the same person, and secretly marries Sebastian (who is in awe that such a noble woman could love him).  When Olivia and Orsino see Sebastian and Cesario next to each other—and Orsino hears that Olivia is married to Sebastian—Viola is left free to reveal her true identity to Orsino, who proposes to Viola.

Viola is a very strong person, who, even in her presumed losses, picks up the pieces of her life and moves on.  Though she falls in love nearly instantly with Orsino, she knows that to best protect herself, she cannot declare her true identity or her feelings.  Despite her masquerade, Viola strives to remain as honest as possible, and remains loyal to Orsino despite her internal conflicts.  She wishes for the happiness of those around her, and exhibits a wisdom beyond her years.  Because she is the only one who knows about her hidden identity, she is able to objectively judge and understand the action around her, and ultimately, everything works out for the best.

To read Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, visit Project Gutenberg.


Conceal me what I am, and be my aid
For such disguise as happily shall become
The form of my intent.
~Viola, Protagonist, William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.
~Queen Victoria, British Monarch

It is possible that blondes also prefer gentlemen.
~Mamie Van Doren, American Actress


Suffrage, or the right to vote, is something that men and women the world over have struggled for.  Women, however, have usually struggled more than men for the right to vote.  From 1755 until the French invasion in 1769, the Corsican Republic granted the right to vote to all inhabitants over the age of 25 (women could previously vote in local elections, but were granted the right for national elections at this point).  Though there were a few “experiments” in universal suffrage after the Corsican Republic fell, it wasn't until 1893 in New Zealand that women were granted the right to vote, followed by Australia in 1902.  In Europe, Finland was the first nation to grant women the right to vote in 1906.  Additionally, Finland was also the first nation in the world to make all of its citizens eligible for to run for parliament.  In the United States, the 19th Amendment was originally drafted in 1978 by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but it wasn't until 1919 that the bill was sent by Congress to the states for ratification, with the amendment being ratified on August 18, 1920.  In the United Kingdom, women were first granted the right to vote in 1918, but only if they were over 30 years old and owned property (men were not subject to the same restrictions).  On July 2, 1928, The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act was passed, given women the same voting rights as men.

Though women eventually gained the right to vote in many places around the world, there are still some places where the right is denied or limited.  In the Vatican City only the College of Cardinals can vote, and then only those cardinals who are under the age of 80, effectively denying suffrage to most of the population.  In Lebanon the right to vote is granted to women 21 or over, provided they've received an elementary school or better education.  In Saudi Arabia, women don't have the right to vote at all, and in the United Arab Emirates, there is no suffrage for anyone.  In Brunei, women do not have the right to vote, but neither men nor women vote in Brunei, as it is an absolute monarchy.  But in 2008, Bhutan, which was previously allocated one vote per house—granting men more voting rights than women—moved to a system of universal suffrage for everyone 18 or older.

For more information on women and the vote around the world visit the CIA World Factbook and look up any country that interests you.

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