Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland in English
On the 28th of November 1918 Polish women achieved the right to vote. Poland was one of the first countries in Europe to secure this essential issue. But it was not only about voting – Polish women during the period of the Second Polish Republic (1918-1939) were gaining more and more independence, proving their extraordinary role in Polish history and culture. Check what civil liberties and possibilieties did women obtain after Poland had regained independence.
1. Access to university education
In the 1894/1895 academic year, the Jagiellonian University was Poland’s first to admit female students. As an exception, Jadwiga Sikorska, Stanisława Dowgiałłówna, and Janina Kosmowska were admitted as unenrolled students at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Pharmaceutical School. In the following year, another five female students were admitted, and a further 14 in a year after that.
Final decisions were made in 1897, when the Faculty Board agreed to admit women as regular students.
Photo: Jadwiga Sikorska, Stanisława Dowgiałłówna, and Janina Kosmowska – pioneer students of pharmacy, admitted in 1894.
A hundred years ago, Polish women were one of the first in Europe to receive suffrage. Interestingly, voting rights were first granted to them by the provisional government of Ignacy Daszyński, appointed on 7 November. Ultimately, the right of women to vote and stand in elections was established by a decree of Provisional Chief of State Józef Piłsudski of 28 November 1918. The new law stated that “any citizen of the State irrespective of sex is a voter in elections to the Sejm” and that “all citizens who have the active electoral right are eligible for election to the Sejm.”
Photo: 1927, woman agitating before Warsaw City Council elections
3. Access to public offices
The first female members of the Sejm were: Gabriela Balicka, Jadwiga Dziubińska, Irena Kosmowska, Maria Moczydłowska, Zofia Moraczewska, Anna Piasecka, Zofia Sokolnicka, and Franciszka Wilczkowiakowa — eight highly educated representatives of different political camps. Significantly, they often formed informal coalitions that crossed the party divides.
Irena Kosmowska was the first female senior administration official. She was a member of the Sejm in 1919-1930 and also served as a deputy minister of social welfare in the Provisional Government of Ignacy Daszyński.
Photo: Irena Kosmowska was the first female senior administration official. She was a member of the Sejm in 1919-1930 and also served as a deputy minister of social welfare in the Provisional Government of Ignacy Daszyński.
4. Access to legal professions
Wanda Grabińska was the first Polish woman to be appointed judge. After finishing her law studies in 1924, she first became a trainee and, three years later, started a battle for a judicial appointment. In her application she cited the constitution, which gave women equal rights in access to public offices. Her application took 18 months to consider and, on 6 March 1929, she received a judgeship.
Photo: Wanda Grabińska, the first Polish woman who received judgeship