It’s not a pet subject of ours per se, but looking back over the past year, a couple of references have been made to the Suffragette Movement, in one form or another…. but never with regard to the first self-governing country in the world to give women the right to vote in parliamentary elections.
New Zealand’s world leadership in women’s suffrage became a central part of their image as a trail-blazing ‘social laboratory’ as a result of a new Electoral Act, signed by the governor, Lord Glasgow on 19 September 1893. In most other democracies – including Britain and the United States – women did not win the right to the vote until after the First World War.
That achievement was the result of years of effort by suffrage campaigners, led by Kate Sheppard. Between 1891 and 1893, a series of massive petitions were compiled calling on Parliament to grant the vote to women. With a vast array of fascinating details about many aspects of the history of New Zealand, New Zealand History Online has a digitised version of the main suffrage petition submitted to Parliament in 1893. The name and address fields represent what appeared on the original sheets but the Suburb/Town and City/Region fields have been added to provide consistent information about the signatories’ location. The ‘more’ link goes to a page where extra information can be added and members of the public are encouraged to submit further information via community contributions. One-namers alert: put your surname into the petition search and see what you can find! Greathead…. I know a lady who does a one-name study on Greathead:
In recent years, Kate Sheppard’s contribution to New Zealand’s history has been acknowledged on the $10 note. Today, the idea that women could not or should not vote is completely foreign to New Zealanders. In 2013, 32% of Members of Parliament are female, compared with 13% in 1984. In the early twenty-first century, women have held each of the country’s key constitutional positions: prime minister, governor-general, speaker of the House of Representatives, attorney-general and chief justice.