“Women Shall Be Placed On an Equal Footing With Men”

“Women Shall Be Placed On an Equal Footing With Men”

Today, you may be feeling a sense of despair and hopelessness.

As we witness brazen disdain for human decency and contempt for the core values of democracy, where can we turn to sustain and support our spirits? As we watch institutionalized corruption, oppression, and persecution breed suffering and chaos, what do we hold onto?

Look to history. Look to the transcendent visions that founded the world’s great democracies.


The Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence was based on the declaration that established America’s independence from Britain. But the brilliance of the Czechoslovak document is that it took into account the evolution of politics and humanity that had occurred since July 14, 1776. Arguably, the Czechoslovak declaration even went beyond the ethos contemporaneous to its signing in 1918. In other words, it was ahead of its time. Stunningly ahead:


The Czecho-Slovak State shall be a republic. In constant endeavour for progress it will guarantee complete freedom of conscience, religion and science, literature and art, speech, the press, and the right of assembly and petition. The Church shall be separated from the State.

Our democracy shall rest on universal suffrage; women shall be placed on an equal footing with men, politically, socially, and culturally. The rights of the minority shall be safeguarded by proportional representation; national minorities shall enjoy equal rights.

Declaration of Czecho-Slovak Independence by the Provisional Government, Paris, 18 October 1918


In 1918, 100 years ago, a country was founded on a brilliant and eloquent vision, including the principle of equality of all ethnic groups, and called out in particular for the political, social, and cultural equality of women. Not even today has the U.S. encoded the equality of women in its fundamental documents. Think about it—Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovakia’s central mastermind, was born in 1850—not in the last century, but the century before that.

Because Masaryk and the principles upon which he formed his republic were ahead of their time, the implementation of these high ideals was not instantaneous and encountered resistance in various ranks of government, society, and culture. And when Masaryk retired due to illness in 1935, Hitler loomed to the west with ideals that diametrically opposed the utopian vision of liberty and equality Masaryk had erected. For a horrific period, Hitler’s ideals seized Europe, tragically sweeping away the progress Masaryk had achieved and resulting in appalling atrocity.


100 years have passed since the Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence was signed, and 242 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence in America.

Certain elements are attempting to drag us further and further away from the spirit of these documents. Despite these attempts, these declarations encapsulate the highest potentials of humanity and therefore remain touchstones. That is the purpose of these kinds of documents—to preserve ideals, ethics, and vision. To declare and to keep. To make it so in our consciousness and then in our politics, society, and culture.

It is that—those dreams of liberty, equality, and the enrichment of the human spirit—that I think of now. I think of the visionaries. I think of Masaryk, who said, “Truth Prevails.” I think of kindness. I wave the flag because it’s mine to wave—and I have hope.


Read the entire Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence here: https://archive.org/details/declarationofind00czec/page/n13


  1. Bevin Luna on October 5, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    I love this Johannah!! It’s perfectly timed. Thank you!!

    • Johannah Knudson on October 22, 2018 at 10:29 am

      Thank you, Bevin! It’s amazing to me that Czechoslovakia beat the U.S. by six months in granting universal suffrage for women.

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My Great Uncle Stefan
My Great Uncle Stefan