While British and American suffragettes get all the attention, Japan had a contemporary suffragette movement. It began after the Meiji Restoration when major educational and political reforms started educating women but excluding them from participation in the new “democratic” government. By law, they were barred from joining political parties, expressing political views, and attending political meetings. Japanese women, more educated then ever and slowly participating in Japan’s workforce, began fighting for the right to participate in the new civil democracy as well.
Unfortunately, when Western white women began winning the right to vote after World War I, Japanese women’s participation in politics was still fighting for basic rights. In 1921, for instance, a court ruling overturned the law forbidding women from attending political meetings. This led to a flowering of women’s suffrage organizations in the 1920s, in addition to literary circles which began publishing feminist magazines during the interwar period.
Japanese women kept the issue alive, but did not win the right to vote until 1945, when election laws were revised under the American occupation.