Manuel L. Quezon and the Filipino women’s suffrage movement of 1937


Manuel L. Quezon is often credited by historians like Encarnacion Alzona (1937) as a staunch advocate of women’s right to vote. Indeed, the history of the struggle for women’s suffrage often highlights the role that Quezon played in terms of supporting the 1937 plebiscite as the president of the Philippine Commonwealth. Various print media of the period like dailies and magazines depicted him, and consequently, the success of the women’s suffrage movement, in the same light (e.g., Philippine Graphic, Manila Bulletin). However, closer scrutiny of Quezon’s speeches, letters, and biography in relation to other pertinent primary sources would reveal that Quezon was, at best, ambivalent, on the cause of the suffragists. His appreciation of the women’s suffrage’s merits was tied and anchored on certain political gains that he could acquire from it. In contrast to the appreciation of his contemporaries like Rafael Palma, Quezon’s appreciation of the women’s right to vote was based on patronage politics and not on the view that the right to suffrage is a right of women and not a privilege. His support for the cause was aimed at putting himself at the forefront of this landmark legislation and thus the real champions of the cause—the women—at the sidelines.