FFE Magazine

Philippine HiStory Today: The right to suffrage, empowering the Filipina

7 December 1933


Thirty five years after the first bill on women’s suffrage was filed in the National Assembly, American governor-general Frank B Murphy finally signed the bill into law. This was a great victory for women; they were excited to finally exercise their new right. Unfortunately, the passage of the Tydings-McDuffie law in 1934 put a halt to its implementation.


The Tydings-McDuffie law promised Philippine independence in 10 years. Along with this law, the Philippine Commonwealth and the 1935 Constitution were established. This constitution basically reversed the 1933 Suffrage Bill and stripped women of their right to vote. However, the constitution also held a provision that said women will be given their right to vote if 300,000 women voted for suffrage in a 1937 poll.


This was a painful blow on women. More painful than the 35-year struggle leading to 1933 because the dream was dashed in front of their eyes and they had to start from zero. They had to make a stand. With only two years to muster support for the 1937 poll, garnering 300,000 votes seemed like an impossible dream. But again, women did not back down from this fight.


After 40 years of struggle, the women’s suffrage movement finally won. The 1937 polls turned 450,000 in favour of suffrage versus 50,000 who voted against it. This was an overwhelming win for women, who were only required to get 300,000 votes to be granted suffrage.



1937 editorial cartoon from the Philippine Free Press

1937 editorial cartoon from the Philippine Free Press


After a long struggle, women finally won the right to be counted in the democratic process. The 1937 polls led to the passage of the Women’s Suffrage Bill that same year.




I know why the issue of voter’s rights is a touchy subject. Many say that voting is our responsibility, and is an opportunity we should not waste if we want to change how our government works. But because government continues to be bent by corruption, a lot think voting is a waste of time.


The youth, who make up the next generation of voters and who are most affected by their elders’ arguments for and against voting, should be told more about the struggles our ancestors had to experience just to win their right to vote in the first place. By discovering more about suffrage movements, we realise: wait a second, voting is all about the democratic process! It’s all about taking part in a national decision to elect who should lead our country.


I think we elders should show less of our disappointment over who wins and more of our enthusiasm to have the power to vote in the first place. This sentiment may just infect our kids to be more conscious of this voting potential they have: the power to influence which direction this country will take in the next few years.


The story of women’s suffrage should also inspire our girls to be more aware of their potentials too. The anonymous women who supported the cause for years were finally given voice and recognised by their male counterparts. The story of suffrage teaches us that we can do anything if we stick together and if we stick to the cause no matter how often we get turned down. Let the suffragettes remind us that we have the power to make a difference too if only we do not give up and forget.


…and let women today feel assured of their power to compel anyone to act right if they themselves are in the right, especially when it comes to men who usually forget to take their maintenance meds.



Well, this is it for this long chapter in our history! Are you a voter? Do you know women (or men) who are of age but do not vote? Do you feel obliged to encourage them to vote? Why or why not? What can you do to get more of them to vote in the next elections? Share your thoughts below!




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