Suffrage Day and Women’s Rights

Today is Suffrage Day. It’s the day we set aside to commemorate and celebrate the efforts of women (and men) who, 122 years ago campaigned long and hard so that women could have the right to have a say in how New Zealand is governed.

You could argue that the suffrage movement was just part of the broader role that feminism, and the fight for female emancipation, has played in securing modern Kiwi women the rights they enjoy like –

  • being able to own property (1860)
  • allowed entrance to university (1871)
  • voting (1893)
  • running for parliament (1919)
  • the right to body autonomy (before 1985 a husband could force his wife to have sex with him. Legally, this was not rape.)

Things have changed a lot since 1893, or even since 1902 when this infamous poster was created by a not very forward-thinking Mr Henry Wright.

Notice to epicene women [poster]
Wright, Henry Charles Clarke, 1844-1936. Wright, Henry Charles Clarke, 1844-1936 :Notice to epicene women. Electioneering women are requested not to call here. 12706 – Alex Ferguson, Printer, Wellington. [1902]. Ref: Eph-B-WOMEN-1902. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22872683
“Epicene” is not a word that gets used a lot in everyday conversation, but it means “of indeterminate sex”. The implication being that women who showed an active interest in politics were not really women at all. Lovely.

Posters like the above help to illustrate how very committed and brave those suffragette campaigners were. To keep on fighting for what they knew was right when many in the community considered them offensive or even freakish shows great fortitude and strength of character.

I’m personally incredibly grateful. We honour them by remembering their struggle not just for themselves but for all women.

Learn more about the suffragettes and votes for women –

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