Today, Thursday 19th September was Suffrage Day. New Zealand was the first nation in the world to grant women the vote. This happened 126 years ago when Kate Sheppard, along with the support of the Temperance movement and other motivated people strived for this legal right. In acknowledgement of Kate Sheppard’s drive and commitment you will see her face on our New Zealand $10 note.
Richard Seddon, Premier at the time, was opposed to the bill and he and other opponents tried to stop its passing. However, they were unsuccessful, and the bill passed on the 8th of September in 1893 by 20 votes to 18. Interestingly I had heard that although Seddon was opposed to the bill, his wife was all for it. I don’t know if this is true if you’re like me and amused by this possibility, it does make one imagine the conversations and behaviours that were happening in the Seddon household. I was also told that prior to this bill passing not all men had the vote – only those who owned property, so I believe the bill gave all adult men the vote as well.
New Zealand has been a world leader in political rights for women. While all New Zealand women could now vote after 1893 and later stand for Parliament in 1919, women in other democratic countries including Britain and the States couldn’t vote until after World War I. We have now had three female Prime Ministers including our current Jacinda Ardern.
As a nation we can feel very proud.
If you want more information, check out the Ministry of Women.