New Zealand Women’s Suffrage 1893

New Zealand Women’s Suffrage 1893

New Zealand Women’s Suffrage 1893
The inaugural meeting of the National Council of Women in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1896.
New Zealand Women’s Suffrage 1893

Mary Ann Müller (c. 1820–1901), Kate Sheppard (1847–1934),

David Boyle, 7th Earl of Glasgow (1833–1915)

Mary Ann Müller of Nelson, New Zealand, produced and distributed booklets campaigning for women’s rights under the alias Femmina in 1869. Sixteen years later, in 1885, the United States’ Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) established fifteen branches in New Zealand, continuing Müller’s effort.

Kate Sheppard of Christchurch was named national franchise superintendent and leader of the women-focused national organization two years later. Sheppard gathered a lot of support and publicity for the group by enlisting the help of well-known people from all around the country.

On September 19, 1893, David Boyle, 7th Earl of Glasgow signed the Electoral Bill, making New Zealand the first self-governing nation in the world to provide women the right to vote. Years of gatherings in towns and cities around the country resulted in the Bill, with women traveling long distances to hear lectures and speeches, pass resolutions, and sign petitions. From the early 1880s through 1893, a number of petitions were presented to both Houses of Parliament.

Eight petitions with over 9000 signatures were collected in 1891, while six petitions with about 20,000 signatures were collected in 1892. The Women’s Christian Temperance Movement and notable suffragist Kate Sheppard, among others, had worked for many years to achieve these goals.

Despite the petitions’ failures, another was organized in 1893. Kate Sheppard described it as a “monster petition” seeking women’s right to vote. Petition sheets were distributed around New Zealand before being returned to Christchurch, where Kate Sheppard stapled each page end to end and coiled it around a broom handle portion.

In the end, 13 petitions to the House of Representatives were presented in 1893. They had the signatures of 31,872 women from all around the country and from all walks of life. Twelve of the petitions were lost, but the “monster” that was put together managed to survive. There are 25,519 signatures in all, some of them are from guys.

With tremendous pomp and circumstance, the roll was presented to Parliament. It was carried into the House by John Hall, a suffrage enthusiast, who unrolled it down the middle aisle of the debating chamber until it thudded into the end wall. In the 1893 election, 109,461 women registered to vote in less than two months.

New Zealand became the first self-governing country to allow women the right to vote after a protracted struggle.

SEE ALSO:

Admission of Women to the Bar (1873);

Women’s Right to Vote (1919).

SOURCES:

New Zealand Women’s Suffrage 1893

Women and the vote in New Zealand

The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)

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