Women got vote 122 years ago

A hundred and twenty two years ago women in New Zealand became able to vote, the first country i the world to allow this. It’s hard to imagine a democracy without universal suffrage but it had to be fought hard for at the time.

NZ History: Women and the vote

On 19 September 1893 the governor, Lord Glasgow, signed a new Electoral Act into law. As a result of this landmark legislation, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

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. New Zealand’s world leadership in women’s suffrage became a central part of our image as a trail-blazing ‘social laboratory’.

That achievement was the result of years of effort by suffrage campaigners, led by Kate Sheppard. In 1891, 1892 and 1893 they compiled a series of massive petitions calling on Parliament to grant the vote to women. In recent years Sheppard’s contribution to New Zealand’s history has been acknowledged on the $10 note.

You can search the 1893 petition database.

My great great grandmother Keziah Norton is on sheet 253.

SuffragePetition253

An interesting bit of earlier history (1865) where men qualified for voting by owning land. Arthur Gibbs is Keziah’s father.

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And from 1875 objections to qualifications for voting:

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14 Comments

  1. uncle bully's nefphew

     /  19th September 2015

    Big mistake if you ask me! I’ve always thort the ‘Urban Dictionary’ is pretty much spot on with their definition of w.i.f.e

    Reply
  2. Mike C

     /  19th September 2015

    @George

    Great research on your part 🙂

    I have found more than a dozen names that could be associated with my own ancestral line and family heritage … so am going to do some research and call Mum and Dad and my Sister, to ask them if any of the women are related to us.

    Reply
  3. Of course if John Key had proposed this back in the day, Labour would have been adamantly against it on the grounds that it wasn’t the right time and there were better ways to spend £26.

    Reply
    • Mike C

       /  19th September 2015

      @Artie

      LOLOLOL 🙂

      Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  19th September 2015

      I wish that some people would give credit to people other than Kate Sheppard now-and would stop using her as a handy hook for their own causes, like gender equity. It’s as if saying that Kate Sheppard would have wanted something makes a stronger case for it, when we don’t know that she would have at all.

      Reply
  4. rayinnz

     /  19th September 2015

    Three out of four of my great grandmothers, hardly surprising considering the stroppy women on the family tree

    Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  19th September 2015

      I really like it that NZ suffragettes weren’t terrorists like the militant ones in England-bombings, arson, vandalism of great artworks, burning letterboxes….two came so close to burning down a theatre full of people because the PM was at the play that they would have been Britain’s worst mass killers. They had put gunpowder ner the stage, ready to be lit and threw petrol and lit matches into the projection booth where there were flammable substances. Only very quick action prevented an appalling tragedy. Some cut the wires in streets that operated fire alarms. They sent things through the post that seriously burned and injured post office workers. They burnt down historic houses. They blew up trains and public and private buildings. No wonder the various governments wouldn’t give in. Or that many women refused to have anything to do with it.

      NZ women had the vote a generation before all English men did-they didn’t have it until 1918. There are people alive now who were alive before universal male suffrage in the UK !!!

      Reply
  5. kittycatkin

     /  19th September 2015

    The mother of an old lady I know was carried to the booth as a baby by her mother on that day in 1893. I met the mother when she was a very old woman, and wish I’d known at the time.

    Reply
  6. Mike C

     /  20th September 2015

    @George

    Who was Rebecca Norton directly under your great great grandmother?

    Their writing was very very similar, so I was wondering if it was Keziahs sister or maybe her daughter?

    Reply
    • It’s her married name so I thought less likely to be her sister but she had a sister called Rebecca so they might have married brothers. They had arrived in Lyttleton in 1851 aged 13 and 10 so would have been in their fifties.

      Reply
    • Ok, I’ve done some searching and my great great grandmother had a sister Rebecca (not Norton) and a daughter Rebecca Norton born 1866 so would have been 27 in 1893 so could have been unmarried.

      Reply
      • Mike C

         /  20th September 2015

        @George

        It was pretty normal back then, for one’s children to be named after siblings who were much loved.

        Was 27 considered to be old to be unmarried back then?

        My Grandmother was born in 1895, and didn’t get married until she was 26, to my Papa, who was ten years her senior 🙂

        Reply
        • kittycatkin

           /  20th September 2015

          No, people often married much later than is generally supposed now, as the man was expected to be able to support a wife and family so not marry until he was established enough to make this possible. This wasn’t universal, of course, human nature being what it is, but the average age at marriage then was higher than many people now imagine.

          It makes family histories maddening to unravel when they kept recycling names. My grandparents’ families were both over-represented by Johns and Jameses, not to mention Williams.

          Reply
  7. I laugh at the feminists of today who appropriate Kate Sheppard. She was the Family First of her day – she only wanted women to get the vote because she thought they could ban grog that way. She wanted human rights so that she could take away other people’s. People forget that, but I haven’t, and I think it’s a disgrace that she’s on the tenner.

    Reply

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