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115 Years of Women Being Members of Parliament in Finland

On this day 115 years ago, on May 23, 1907, the Finnish Parliament met as a unicameral assembly for the first time, following an election earlier that same year. The election was made possible by the Parliament Act of the Grand Duchy of Finland (Landtdagsordning FFS 26/1906), which guaranteed the universal and equal right to all Finnish citizens 24 years and older to both vote and stand for election to the Finnish Parliament. At that time, Finland was part of the Grand Duchy of Russia. Still, through the Parliament Act mentioned above, which recognized the right of the parliament to represent the people of Finland, the Parliament enjoyed considerable autonomy.

The law made Finland the first country in Europe to allow women to both vote and stand for election in a national election to parliament. Although these rights had already been afforded to women in Australia, Finnish women became the first elected female members of a national parliament in the world in 1907, as no woman in Australia had been elected under their 1894 Act. Similarly, New Zealand, the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote in 1893, did not allow women to stand for election. Thus, Finnish women became the first to represent their people in a national assembly.

Nineteen women were elected to the 200-member chamber in the national election in 1907 (listed here in alphabetical order):

Picture of Baroness Alexandra Gripenberg, one of the first women elected to parliament in Finland.

Baroness Alexandra Gripenberg [elected to the Finnish Assembly ca 1907], Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, //hdl.loc.gov/loc.rbc/rbcmil.scrp3008901.

  • Evelina Ala-Kulju
  • Hedvig Gebhard
  • Alexandra Gripenberg
  • Lucina Hagman
  • Anni Huotari
  • Mimmi Kanervo
  • Liisa Kivioja
  • Hilda Käkikoski
  • Maria Laine
  • Sandra (Aleksandra)Lehtinen
  • Alli Nissinen
  • Dagmar Neovius
  • Jenny Nuotio (later Upari)
  • Maria Paaso-Laine
  • Hilja Pärssinen
  • Maria Raunio
  • Hilma Räsänen
  • Miina Sillanpää
  • Iida Vemmelpuu

As a result, women held 9.5 percent of the seats in Parliament. Since 1907, the fewest female members that the Finnish parliament has ever seen was after the election in 1930, when only 11 women were elected.

The 1907 Landtdagen

The assembly meetings of 1907 were known as Landtdagen and lasted from May 23 to November 2, 1907. The laws that were passed by the Parliament can be found in the legal gazettes Suomen säädöskokoelma (in Finnish) and Finlands författningssamling (in Swedish). The minutes from the meetings of the Landtdagen in 1907 can also be found online on he Finnish Parliaments website (by selecting 1907). Documents are available in Finnish and Swedish. Among other things, the 1907 Landtdagen passed prohibition laws, which has sometimes been attributed to the women members of the Parliament.

 Finnish Parliament Today

Today, the Finnish Parliament is still unicameral and meets annually, with its first meeting by law being in October. Members are elected to four-year terms, which by law takes place in April every fourth year. The next election is scheduled for April 2, 2023.

Today, women make up 45.5% of parliament, holding 91 out of the 200 seats.

The Diet House (Ständerhuset), Helsingfors, Finland (ca 1897). Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/stereo.1s23263.

The Parliament Building

The Diet House, Ständerhuset, originally housed the bicameral parliament. Following the move to a unicameral assembly, it was only used for committee meetings as the 200 members could not meet within its walls. Ständerhuset is now part of the Prime Minister’s office. A new parliament building was completed in 1931 and can be visited virtually here.

Law Library Resources on Finland

If you have a question regarding Finnish law, you can submit it using the Ask a Librarian form on our website. You can also follow Finnish legal developments online through our Global Legal Monitor publication.

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