No. 22




Women in the Parliament of Estonia

“Women in the Parliament of Estonia, 1917–1940 and 1992–2010”, an electronic publication of the National Library of Estonia (, gives an overview of the activities of women in legislative bodies (in different periods of history this body has had different names – Provisional Assembly of the Governorate of Estonia, Constituent Assembly of Estonia, Riigikogu, Rahvuskogu).

During the last decade, both experts at conferences, seminars and forums, as well as ordinary people have actively discussed gender equality in Estonia. The most tangible result of the discussions is apparently the fact that the position of Gender Equality Commissioner has been established and the problem is acknowledged; however, no decisive change in the values and opinions of the people has taken place. Women are still mainly seen as housekeepers, men as bread-winners for the family – as if the normal situation for Estonia should be that women earn 30 per cent less than men and their representation at the top level is still modest. For example, in Estonia women form seven per cent of the chairpersons of the boards and governing councils of business enterprises. This is more than the average of the European Union (three per cent), but taking into account the percentage of women in population (54 per cent as of 1 January 2010), it is not enough. Without any intention to lessen the importance of the political activities of women who belonged to the Parliament after the re-establishment of independence and who are members of the Riigikogu today, first of all the part dealing with more distant period in history deserves to be highlighted. The main reason for that is that we know much less about these women and their activities than about the women politicians who were active recently or are active now. In essence, the publication is multi-layered. Although its main subject is the activity of women in the Parliament, it does not merely present the biographies of women but also gives a wider picture of the earlier period in several aspects. The part dealing with the years 1917–1940 begins with an overview of the activities of the 18 women who belonged to the legislative bodies of Estonia. Those who are interested can find out who were more successful women politicians and were elected more than once, and also how many women and from which political parties were elected to the Parliament. An overview by legislative bodies is also given. The part of the publication dealing with the earlier period can be considered finished (which does not mean that all facts about all persons are put down, or that the list of sources is exhausted), but the part dealing with more recent history will remain open. New personal data about and the positions of women politicians active today, and also new names of Estonian women politicians can be added to it. This is not a long list but it is a list of efficient people.

Full article in Estonian