Women’s Suffrage: Georgian Movement and its Leaders

Women’s Suffrage: Georgian Movement and its Leaders

September 28, 2021

Euroclub, a youth organization based in Kvareli, Georgia in support of the EU Regional Communication Programme “EU NEIGHBOURS east” is implementing a new project “Activism Film Club”, which is sponsored by the Open Society Georgia Foundation. Throughout the project public movie screenings and thematic discussions with the participation of invited speakers are held on a weekly basis.

On September 19, the screening of the film „Suffragette” and the discussion “Activism for Equality: Lessons from the Women’s Suffrage Movement” were held outdoors at the historic castle in the town of Kvareli. The meeting was chaired by Tamar Gurchiani, Associate Professor of Ilia State University School of Law. Young European Ambassadors from Georgia Salome Abramishvili and Soso Dzamukashvili were also given the opportunity to be actively involved in the event.

During the meeting they came up with an idea to write a story about women’s suffrage in Georgia and show the role of the first Georgian female politicians in gaining the right to vote.

History of Women’s Suffrage in Georgia

The history of women gaining the right to vote is quite long and varied. Until the recent history of the world, women were not allowed to vote, including in ancient Greece and the Roman Republic, nor in the newly formed democracies of late 18th-century Europe. The issue of women’s suffrage became a particularly acute problem in the 19th century, and since then an active struggle for its acquisition began.

It is worth mentioning that women from Georgia, one of the first in the world, won the right to vote. This happened on November 22, 1918, when the Georgian National Council (referred to as “Parliament” since 8 October, 1918) approved the law – “Regulations on Elections to the Constituent Assembly”. The draft law was highly progressive due to its substantive and political significance. For example, the first article of the first chapter the general provision states: “the Constituent Assembly is composed of members, elected by the general population – despite gender – by equal, direct and secret ballot with proportional representation, according to the rule;” Article 3 of the second chapter refers to voting rights, “citizens of both genders of the republic are entitled to vote in the Constituent Assembly Elections if they attain the age of 20 on election day”. In these elections, five women were elected to the Constituent Assembly, at a time when in the majority of countries women were not granted the right to vote; furthermore, Kristine Sharashidze was elected as a member of presidium (Secretary).

The First Georgian Women Parliamentarians

In 1919, the Constituent Assembly of the Legislative Body of the Democratic Republic of Georgia consisted of 130 deputies, 5 of which were women:

Minadora Orjonikidze-Toroshelidze

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Photo Courtesy of the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia.

In 1918 Minadora Orjonikidze-Toroshelidze assisted the National Council of Georgia to adopt the Act of Independence, which established the Democratic Republic of Georgia in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Ms. Orjonikidze-Toroshelidze was one of the signatories of the act. In 1919, Minadora was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Georgia and she was appointed to become a member of the Labour and Public Health Commission.

In February 1921, during the attack of the Soviet Russian army, Ms. Orjonikidze-Toroshelidze worked for the Georgian Red Cross. After Georgia became a part of the Soviet Union, she joined the anti-Soviet movement. After an uprising in Georgia, Minadora was exiled to Moscow and she was not allowed to return to Tbilisi until 1950. She passed away in 1967.

Eleonora Ter-Parsegova-Makhviladze

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Photo Courtesy of the Soviet Past Research Laboratory

Ms. Ter-Parsegova-Makhviladze joined the Georgian Social-Democratic Labour Party in 1902. After the Manifesto of October 17, 1905, the Sukhumi branch of the Batumi Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, of which Ter-Parsegova was a member, took effective control of the town, briefly replacing an Imperial administration. She was frequently seen marching at the head of demonstrations and she propagated revolutionary ideas among her students. After the revolution was crushed, she was imprisoned until the 1917 revolution toppled down the Russian monarchy.

In 1918 Ms. Ter-Parsegova-Makhviladze was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. Later, in 1926 she was arrested by the Special Commission of the Georgian SSR and she was deported from Transcaucasia. After returning from exile in 1930, Eleonora engaged in private pedagogical activities. Her date of death is unknown.

Kristine Sharashidze

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Photo Courtesy of National Archives of Georgia

Kristine Sharashidze joined the Georgian Social-Democratic Labour Party in 1905. She actively participated in revolutionary demonstrations in Tbilisi between 1905 and 1906. In addition, Ms. Sharashidze wrote in the newspaper. In November 1905, during the Armenian-Tatar clashes in Tbilisi, she provided medical assistance to the injured.

In 1917 Kristine was a member of the board of the Society for the Spreading of Literacy among Georgians, as well as a member of the founding society of Tbilisi State University.

In 1919 Ms. Sharashidze was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. She was a member of the Secretariat of the Presidium and a member of the Library, Editorial and Public Education Commissions.

Anna Sologhashvili

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Photo Courtesy of National Archives of Georgia

Anna Sologhashvili joined the Georgian Social-Democratic Labour Party in 1903. From 1918 she contributed to the activities performed by the National Council of Georgia and signed the Act of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. In 1919 she was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Georgia and she was appointed to become a member of the Library and Editorial Commission.

After Georgia became a part of the Soviet Union, she was involved in the anti-Soviet movement. She was arrested in 1937 by the regional department of the South Ossetian Autonomous District. On November 27, 1937, the so-called Troika accused Anna Sologhashvili of anti-Soviet and anti-collective propaganda and “chauvinist” sentiments, as well as links with the Menshevik leader Ramishvili. She was sentenced to death.

Elizabeth Nakashidze-Bolkvadze

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Photo Courtesy of the Soviet Past Research Laboratory

Elizabeth Nakashidze-Bolkvadze joined the Georgian Social-Democratic Labour Party in 1904. She worked with the peasants in the Guria region. In 1905, after a split in the Social Democratic Party, she sided with the Mensheviks. In 1907, she was elected a member of the Guria Committee of the Social Democratic Party. After the arrest and deportation of the members of the Guria Committee in 1907, Elizabeth was expelled from Transcaucasia and she returned to Georgia after the February Revolution of 1917.

On March 20, 1917, Ms. Nakashidze was elected chairwoman of the Guria Women’s Society. In March 1918, she was a candidate for membership in the Central Committee of the Georgian Social-Democratic Labour Party. In 1919 she was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Georgia and became a member of the Labour Commission.

Even though Georgian women were one of the first in the world to win the right to vote, the struggle for equal rights still is going on. Women are still a minority at the decision-making level and achieving gender equality remains one of the most serious human rights challenges in Georgia.



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