On 14 April 2023, the death of Elisabeth Kopp, the first woman appointed to the Federal Council, Switzerland’s cabinet, was announced.
Elisabeth Kopp, died on Good Friday at the age of 86 after a long illness, reported SRF.
The Zurich native was the first female member of the Federal Council after being elected on 2 October 1984. She was a member of the PLR/FDP party.
In 1989, Kopp resigned from the Federal Council after it became known that she had told her husband to resign from a company mentioned in a money laundering investigation. As a Federal Councillor she was told of the investigation and disclosing this was considered a breach of official secrecy. A year after resigning Kopp was acquitted by the Federal Tribunal, Switzerland’s highest court, because it could not be proven that she knew the official origin of the information she shared with her husband. At that point she largely withdrew from public life and always denied any moral or legal guilt. Her husband was never found guilty in the money laundering affair, although he was convicted of fraud in 1991 in a completely separate case connected with the failure of a firm he headed in the early 80s.
Earlier in life Kopp studied law at the University of Zurich and was the first woman to graduate from the faculty in 1960. She was an early campaigner for the introduction of women’s suffrage in Switzerland and immediately after the canton of Zurich introduced it in 1970, she was elected to the municipal council of Zumikon. In 1972, she joined the cantonal government of Zurich, the first woman to do so, and In 1974, she became mayor of Zumikon. By 1979 she was member of the National Council, Switzerland’s federal parliament.
During her political career Kopp was committed to equality for women and environmental protection and played a key role in modernising Switzerland’s matrimonial law, introducing data protection laws and creating criminal law against money laundering. In 1986 she created a government representative for refugees.
More information on the life of the late Federal Councillor can be viewed here in the DHS historical archives.
SRF article (in German)