Democracy is a government where the people have the right to vote for their leaders. In Ancient Greece, only men had the right to vote and participate in government affairs. As more democracies got established, men continued to exclude women. However, as more women were educated, they started fighting for the right to vote. Read along to learn about women’s suffrage and it’s depiction on banknotes.

Painting of Athenian Democracy | Source: Wikipedia

The women’s suffrage movement grew in the late 19th– early 20th century. The movements in Great Britain and the United States particularly were intense, with some suffragettes losing their lives. 

Women’s Suffrage Parade Down Fifth Avenue | 1917 | Source: Wikipedia

New Zealand is the first country to grant women the right to vote in 1893. Australia, Finland, and Norway followed suit. Due to the two World Wars, more countries granted women to vote. The United Nations Convention on the Political Rights of Women, adopted in 1952, states that “women shall be entitled to vote in all elections on equal terms with men, without any discrimination.” Now, women have the right to vote in every country and territory except in Vatican City, where only Catholic cardinals, who must be male, vote to elect the pope.  

Women Learning How To Vote | Source: Wikipedia

Banknotes Dedicated to Women’s Suffrage

Notable suffragists have been featured on banknotes as a testament to their efforts in bettering women’s lives in their respective countries. Here are some of them:   

Kate Sheppard Women’s Suffrage Leader From New Zealand | Source: Wikipedia

Kate Sheppard is an English-born activist who led the woman suffrage movement in New Zealand. She believed that women should fully participate in all aspects of society, including politics. She first fought for the abolishment of constrictive clothing for women and promoted physical activities. In 1887, she became the leader of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) suffrage movement, writing pamphlets, organizing meetings and lectures, and presenting petitions to Parliament. After Parliament granted women the right to vote in 1893, she continued being active in other women suffrage movements around the world, including England and the United States. In 1896, she helped establish the National Council of Women (NCW) and was the council’s first president. Despite her poor health, she continued to be active in many women’s rights movements. Her portrait is featured on the 10 New Zealand dollar note since 1992.

New Zealand 10 Dollars | 2015 | Source: Banknote World

Hermila Galindo Acosta is a Mexican writer who pushed for radical feminist issues. She was employed as Venustiano Carranza’s private secretary, rallying support for the rights of Mexican women and liberal ideologies. She created the magazine, La Mujer Moderna (The Modern Woman), where she discussed many of her feminist ideas. Some of her ideas included her contempt for the Catholic Church, speaking out about how the church views and controls women, and her attacks on the male double standards in Mexican culture. She ran for office as a candidate for Deputy of the 5th constituency of Mexico City. Though she won a majority of the votes, she lost because the Electoral College rejected her results. She accepted these results since she wanted to publicly demonstrate that women could be elected and should be allowed to hold public office.  Her portrait is featured on the latest 1,000 Mexican peso note, together with Carmen Serdan and Francisco Ignacio Madero.

Mexico 1,000 Pesos | 2019 | Source: Banknote World

Cecilia Grierson is the first woman in Argentina to receive a medical degree. Due to the harassment that she experienced as a medical student, she became a militant advocate for women’s rights in Argentina. She established the Argentine Women’s Council in 1900. As rifts between the more conservative members of the council and the more radical members grew, Grierson and her academic cohorts co-founded the Association of Argentine University Women, the first university student association for women in the country. She advocated for full equality for women, including the civil and political rights of women, the rights of children, and the legalization of divorce. Grierson also chaired the First International Feminist Conference of Argentina. She was honored in 1914 on the silver jubilee of her medical graduation and in 1916 on her retirement from academia. She graces the 2,000 Argentinian peso note from 2023—a commemorative note that celebrates the development of science and medicine in Argentina.

Argentina 2,000 Pesos | 2023 ND | Source: Banknote World

Josefa Llanes Escoda is most well-known for being the founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. She is featured on the obverse side of the Philippines 1,000 Pesos banknote.

Philippines 1,000 Piso | 2020 | Source: Banknote World

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